for the least of these…

Feast of the Epiphany (transferred), 5 January 2019

Parish of St. John the Baptist, North Sydney

8:00 and 10:30 AM

Matthew 2:1-12

I speak to you in the name of God: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

This week The Season of Christmas comes to a close with the arrival of the wise from the East. The Celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany is a celebration of the proclamation of the Christ to all the world.

The main point of the arrival of the wise men, the Feast of the Epiphany is this – the proclamation of Christ is for all people.

Christ’s birth is a gift of covenant, as I said last Sunday, not only to the Jews of whom Christ was one, but to all people. With the birth of Jesus comes the promise of new life coming into the world as a gift of God’s love for all people.

Now, there is little we are certain about when it comes to the wise men. But, one thing we do know — coming from the Far East, they were coming from outside the Jewish tradition. The word magi is often translated as wise men. But, more accurately; the word means astrologer, magician or sage.

Those who seek Jesus, we know are not limited to shepherds tending sheep, heavenly messengers or magi coming from the East. We, too, are continually seeking Christ – to love and serve him – in every moment of our lives, in all that we encounter in all that we do, always striving to be our best selves no matter what may come. When we do this, we answer the call of God in our hearts.

A story by Henry Van Dyke illustrates this point, imagining what life may have been like for a fourth wiseman. The story, “The Other Wiseman,” is an addition to today’s Gospel reading. Artaban is a priest of the Magi from Persia – Persia is what we now call Iran. Along with the other Magi, Artaban sees unusual signs in the alignment of the stars and planets. These signs indicate that the long-awaited King of the Jews is born in Bethlehem. And so, like the other magi, Artaban starts on the journey to the manger. Like the others, he too, brings gifts; a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl of great price. On his way to meet up with the caravan of magi, Artaban encounters a dying man and stops to help. This causes Artaban to miss the caravan with the others on their way to greet the new King.

This is a crisis for Artaban. He misses the caravan and must sell one of the treasures to buy a camel and supplies – now being alone – to cross the dessert. But, again, Artaban is late. By the time he arrives in Bethlehem, he finds that the child was taken by his parents, fleeing for their safety to Egypt. Continuing along the way, Artaban again stops – this time to save the life of a child. This costs him one more treasure. Still insistent on finding King Jesus, Artaban continues in acts of charity along the way.

Thirty-three years pass. And, Artaban has not stopped seeking. And, he makes a stop in Jerusalem. And, as he approaches the scene of the crucifixion he comes across a young woman about to be sold into slavery. He stops to help. He pays the ransom of the young woman and she is freed. Freeing the young woman costs Artaban the pearl of great price.

Closer now than ever before to seeing the King…

Artaban is suddenly struck on the head in an accident. About to die, Artaban feels like a failure because he didn’t succeed in finding Jesus.

How do we make it through life? I hear this question frequently when I meet with someone or a family in crisis.

People of deep faith will shape this question differently…they ask, how do people without faith get through challenges like you-name-it? I can’t imagine how I would get through this diagnosis, these treatments, my recent job loss, the death of my spouse, the house fire, the accident, the divorce…I can’t imagine getting through life without my faith in God.

This brings us back to Artaban.

Artaban feels like a failure because he doesn’t see how his lifelong quest to see King Jesus was successful. For all of those miles travelled, he believed, though he was somehow always too many steps behind.

Though he believed, as he lay dying his faith was in crisis.

Until…that is…as Artaban lies dying…he hears these words: “Artaban, whenever you did for any of my people, you did it for me.”

Artaban dies radiant and peaceful, with a heart full of wonder and joy. For, he found his King.

This is my prayer for all of us at the start of a new year, a new decade and a new ministry together…that we not count lost, what Christ counts as gain…that we as Christ’s Body…the one born a King…as St. John the Baptist Anglican Church…may we, like Artaban, hear Jesus words spoken to us: “Whatever you do for any in my Name, no matter how important or unimportant it seems at the time…do it for me.”

I speak to you in the name of God: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

2 Replies to “for the least of these…”

  1. Thank you for sharing this . Wishing you all the best , dear heart , for good health & much happiness in this New Year ! Love ya, Judy🤶

    On Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 4:06 PM MUSIC ART SPIRIT LIFE wrote:

    > douglasabeck posted: “Feast of the Epiphany (transferred), 5 January 2019 > Parish of St. John the Baptist, North Sydney 8:00 and 10:30 AM Matthew > 2:1-12 I speak to you in the name of God: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. > Amen. This week The Season of Christmas comes to a cl” >

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