The Epiphany of Our Lord (1/6/2008)

 Giving Our Best

Lessons:      Isaiah 60:1-6      Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 (11)      Ephesians 3:1-12      Matthew 2:1-12

Prayer of the Day:     God, on this day you revealed your Son to the nations by the leading of a star. Lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives, and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 

6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.' "

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

St. Matthew 2:1-12, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Angela was 15 years old. She was no scholar - as a matter of fact, she was just barely making it at school. She was an athlete, though, and quite good at that. She also was somewhat of a trendsetter at school. Many of the other kids, especially the girls, were impressed with her and tended to follow her. One day she made an appointment with her Pastor. She had been studying stewardship in her Sunday School class, and wanted to know how she might be a better steward of God's gifts to her. She didn't think she had gifts that would be helpful to the church, and wanted to know if he had any insights as to what she could do.

Robert was also 15 years old. He was a very bright young man: a National Honor Society member, and always on the honor role. Unfortunately, he had contracted a terrible eye disease, and was almost blind. The illness caused him a great deal of pain, but the worst of it was an inability to read any more. This had filled him with anger and frustration. He used to enjoy school - it was the highlight of his life. But unable to read, he could no longer stand to be there. Slowly but surely, he began to slip into depression.

Angela's and Robert's Pastor saw an opportunity for grace. He got these two young people together, and Angela began to read to Robert. She read history, comedy, mystery... even political science. Eventually, she helped him learn to read Braille. She in her self-doubt, he in his darkness: each of them gave a tremendous gift to the other. Robert was able to continue with his love of learning. And Angela was able to experience for the first time how exciting it can be to broaden one's horizons through reading and study.

Two thousand years ago, Magi from the east (astrologers) traveled to bring gifts to the Babe of Bethlehem. A baby in a crib had little use for gold or frankincense or burial spices - a warm blanket or a few clean diapers would have been a much more useful gift for him. But it wasn't the gift, so much as the giving, that was important on that first Epiphany Day. They wanted to give something to this newborn baby - something precious - and the desire of their hearts was the greatest gift they could possibly give to this newborn king.

These Magi loved and respected that little baby, and reached into their treasure chests to bring out the very best for him: their precious stones and ointments. You and I are invited to reach into the treasure chests of our lives, and give God our very best as well. As we think about the gifts God has given us: our time, our talents, our energies, our passions - we take the first step in discovering how we might offer our very best to Christ, just as the Magi did.

Epiphany calls every believer to exploring how God has gifted him or her, and how we might put those gifts to work for God's purposes. In that way, we continue to honor Christ, as the Magi first did so many years ago.

David J. Risendal, Pastor  (January 2, 2008)

Exploring This Week's Gospel:

  1. Why were the Magi so interested to find this newborn baby and worship him?
  2. What do their gifts say about them?
  3. What does the contrast between the Magi and Herod (the "King of the Jews") say about the religious leadership of Jesus' day?

Connecting with This Week's Gospel:

  1. What gifts has God given to me?
  2. What gifts can I return to God, by sharing them with my church or community?
  3. Does my giving reflect a desire to give my very best to Christ?