By the Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
January 6, 2008 (Epiphany)
Read: Matthew 2:1-12
Today is Epiphany and marks the end of our church season of Christmas – the twelve days of Christmas. You know that Epiphany means “manifestation”, “to show”, “to reveal” and is the story of how Christ became known to all people.
I just read the story about a diamond that was found in Murphreesboro, Arkansas recently. Apparently the Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only place in the world where you can walk around, find diamonds, and take them home with you. It was there that the “Star of Thelma” was found. One of about 400 diamonds found there last year, it is about the size of the end of your pinkie finger and it was found lying on the ground.
A man by the name of Gary Dunlap saw it, so he picked it up and named it in honor of his wife, Thelma.
The truth is the “Star of Thelma” had always been there, but it hadn’t been found before because it had been covered by dirt. A recent rainfall had washed the dirt away and “revealed” the stone. Until the rain had washed the dirt away, it was hidden. And with the dirt gone, it became obvious to Gary Dunlap.
You could call it an epiphany. What was hidden was revealed. It was uncovered and became obvious what had always been there.
Epiphany is when it became obvious who Jesus is. It’s when we celebrate that God has been revealed through Jesus. In Matthew’s telling of the story, the first people to recognize it were the Magi (Mt. 2:1-12). They uncovered the truth and came to worship him. That’s why we read their story today.
There is an ancient Christian legend told in the apocryphal Cave of Treasures, and it goes as follows. When Adam and Eve, at the beginning of the world, and before the fall, lived in the Garden of Eden, Adam had many beautiful and precious treasures. After the first parents sinned, but before they were forced to leave Eden, Adam pleaded with God that he might be permitted to take some of his treasure with him. God graciously granted his request. Many years later, when Adam’s soul flew to heaven, his family buried his wealth in a cave. This cave, like the entrance to Paradise, was guarded by an angel, so that no one might enter and take Adam’s property. And there the treasure rested throughout the ages.
But in the fullness of time, a star arose in the East, and three magi, in response, went on a long voyage to follow its light to the newborn king of the Jews. As they were making their way, the star lead them to the ancient, hidden cave of Adam, and the angelic sentry gave up its guard. There, among the riches, the magi found gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and they took some of each that they might with them honor the royal Jewish infant. This then was how the three wise kings came to offer their gifts to Jesus in Bethlehem.
Lots of legends have grown up around this story of the Three Kings, one of which is that they were “three kings.” The gospel story does not say there were three of them…or five or ten or thirty. The idea of THREE KINGS came when the three gifts were given – one each. Names and personal descriptions have even been assigned: Caspar – young, beardless, ruddy complexion; Balthazzar – a bit older, dark-skinned, a new beard; Melchior – old, grey hair, long beard. Really? We have no idea.
What about their being kings? Probably not. Matthew calls them “wise men from the East” – MAGOI in the Greek (which is where we get our term MAGI) – probably astrologers which explains why they would have noticed and then been so excited about coming across something unusual in the sky. As they would later say to Herod, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” Not unheard of in that day – the idea that heavenly signs marked the births and deaths of great leaders was widely accepted. What they saw excited them, even enough to make them drop what they were doing and follow the star.
There is a wonderful lesson for us right there – these three (or four, or however many) met God in the midst of doing what they were supposed to do: they were at work. God is not limited to meeting with us in a certain place or at a certain hour. God can and does speak to us anywhere and anytime.
In one of his books (Six Hours One Friday), Max Lucado relates a story told originally by a teacher. The teacher told of a nine-year-old girl whose name was Barbara. Barbara was always quiet. She never spoke — never. When the other children sang, Barbara was silent. When the other children laughed, Barbara sat quietly. The teacher could see that Barbara was listening, but she couldn’t get her to talk. Barbara never spoke a word.
Then one day the teacher told the children about heaven– what a wonderful place it is — how God prepared heaven for those who love him.
Then, much to the teacher’s surprise, Barbara raised her hand. It was one of those precious moments that teachers pray for. The teacher acknowledged Barbara and waited to hear what she would say. This is what Barbara said. She asked, “Is heaven for girls like me?”
Have you ever felt like that? “Is heaven for girls like me?” “Is heaven for boys like me?” “Is heaven for men like me?” “Is heaven for women like me?”
Epiphany’s answer is YES!!! Yes, heaven is for people like us. Heaven is not only for people like us — but heaven is for us! God created heaven for you and for me!
Yes, I understand that we’re not good enough! Yes, I know that we do bad things! If you weren’t a sinner, you wouldn’t need Jesus. Jesus didn’t die on the cross to save people who didn’t need him. Jesus died on the cross to save YOU and ME!
Billy Graham put it this way. He said:
“Jesus stopped dying on the cross long enough to answer the prayer of a thief. He stopped in a big crowd one day because someone touched the hem of His garment; and He’ll stop to touch your life and change you, and forgive you.”
May God wash away our dirt to reveal the light inside of each and every one of us. Amen.
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