Thoughts about Epiphany
1st January – The naming of Jesus (PP articles)
Matthew and Luke tell how the angel instructed that Mary’s baby was to be named Jesus – a common name meaning ‘saviour’. The Church recalls the naming of Jesus on 1st January – eight days after 25th December (by the Jewish way of reckoning days). In Jewish tradition, the male babies were circumcised and named on their eighth day of life.
For early Christians, the name of Jesus held a special significance. In Jewish tradition, names expressed aspects of personality. Jesus’ name permeated His ministry, and it does so today: we are baptised in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38), we are justified through the name of Jesus (1 Cor 6:11); and God the Father has given Jesus a name above all others (Phil 2:9). All Christian prayer is through ‘Jesus Christ our Lord’, and it is ‘at the name of Jesus’ that one day every knee shall bow.
1st Jan: Have you ever wondered where the name ‘Jesus’ comes from?
The name Jesus is a transliteration of a name that occurs in several languages. It is of Hebrew origin, ‘Yehosua’, or Joshua. There is also the Hebrew-Aramaic form, ‘Yesua’. In Greek, it became ‘Ἰησοῦς’ (Iēsoûs), and in Latin it became ‘Iesus’.
The meaning of the name is ‘Yahweh delivers’ or ‘Yahweh rescues’, or ‘Yahweh is salvation’. No wonder the angel Gabriel in Luke (1:26-33) told Mary to name her baby Jesus: “because He will save His people from their sins.”
6th Jan: Where did the Wise Men come from?
Magi from the East – it isn’t a lot to go on. The Magi had originally been a religious caste among the Persians. Their devotion to astrology, divination and the interpretation of dreams led to an extension in the meaning of the word, and by the first century the Magi in Matthew’s gospel could have been astrologers from outside of Persia. Some scholars believe they might have come from what was then Arabia Felix, or as we would say today, southern Arabia.
It is true that in the first century astrology was practised there, and it was the region where the Queen of Sheba had lived. She of course had visited Solomon and would have heard the prophecies about how one day a Messiah would be born to the Israelites and become their king.
Matthew’s gospel (chapter 2) is clear that the Magi asked 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.’ So, it is possible that in southern Arabia the Queen of Sheba’s story of how a Messiah would one day be sent to the Israelites had survived. Certainly, there are a number of other early legends that connect southern Arabia with Solomon’s Israel.
To many people this makes sense: that the ancient stories of a Messiah, linked to later astrological study, prompted these alert and god-fearing men to the realisation that something very stupendous was happening in Israel. They realised that after all these centuries, the King of the Jews, the Messiah, was about to be born.
One more interesting thing that gives weight to the theory that the Magi came from southern Arabia is this: if you study any map of Palestine as it was during biblical times, you will find that the old Arabian caravan routes all entered Palestine ‘from the East’.
Editor: Canon Paul Hardingham finds the wise men’s gifts to be of help to us now. From the Parish Pump.
Epiphany for today
This month we celebrate Epiphany, when we remember the Magi from the East who followed a star to find the baby Jesus: ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?’ (Matthew 2:1).
At the start of a New Year, amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, are we asking the same question? The gifts they offered show us how we can find Him in the uncertainty of the coming year: ‘they bowed down and worshipped Him…and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.’ (2:11).
The gift of gold reflects that the Magi saw in the baby a king, destined to rule over us all. In this coming year we need to remember that Jesus is on the throne, the seat of power and authority in the whole universe. Will we crown Him king of our lives and dedicate all that we are and do to Him?
The gift of frankincense reflects that the visitors saw not just an earthly king, but God in human flesh. Incense symbolises the prayers of God’s people and so this gift reminds us that God is worthy of our worship and prayer. Will we offer our praise and prayer, as we seek God to guide us through the uncertainties of this time?
The gift of myrrh reflects that these astrologers saw beyond the baby’s birth and life, to His death which would secure life for all. Jesus was offered myrrh on the cross and was a spice used in His tomb. As we face the sufferings of this New Year, we can be confident that Jesus knows and understands our experience. Are we ready to trust Him?
‘Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and Sacrifice! Heav’n sings Hallelujah: Hallelujah the earth replies.’ (‘We Three Kings’).
Being salt and light in times of sorrow
The coronavirus pandemic has placed Christians who work in roles such as funeral directors, funeral celebrants, bereavement nurses and grief counsellors (like so many in the sector) under great pressure. Often, they are working alone or in small groups where they are the only believer.
As a result, Transform Work UK has set up a Christian Support Group called Christians Working with the Bereaved (CWWtB). The hope is that it can offer prayer, support and encouragement to Christians working in this sector.
More details at: www.transformworkuk.org