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Homily for Epiphany 2011

posted Jan 4, 2011, 6:13 AM by fathermark@stmaryshuntingburg.org

Epiphany

St. Mary's, Huntingburg

January1-2, 2010

 

 

            Today, on the feast of the Epiphany, we hear again the story of the Magi ... the Wise Men ... who came from the East to find the newborn King of the Jews.

They traveled far ... following the star ... so that they could do him homage ... that is, to honor him ... really, to worship him ...as they showed when the prostrated themselves before him.

And, when they found the newborn child ... they "opened their treasures" .... giving gifts of gold ... frankincense ...  and myrrh.

Now, the Gospel is very precise about the gifts ... not any precious gifts ... but specifically gold, ... frankincense, ... and myrrh.

The Gospel is precise about the gifts ... because the gifts are a symbol.

 

Gold is a gift given to a king ... tribute paid to a king ... and so, the Wise Men have come to acknowledge Jesus as king ... and not only as the King of the Jews ... but the king of all the world ... which these three foreigners from far-off lands represent.


Frankincense
is a precious resin (a sap) from a tree, used to make a special incense for worship ... and so, they have come to acknowledge the child as a priest ... the Great High Priest ... who will offer the sacrifice of his own life on the altar of the Cross  for the life of the world.

 

And they come with precious myrrh ... another tree resin used in the ancient world for embalming ... in fact, myrrh is explicitly mentioned as one of the burial spices at the time of Jesus' death ... and so, the myrrh is a symbol of his death for the life of the world.

 

The Wise Men give gold, ... frankincense,  ... and myrrh ... to the innocent baby lying in the manger ... who is, in fact,  King of the Universe... and the Great High Priest ... who give his life for the salvation of all.

 

            In many Christian countries, because of the example of the Wise Men, it's the tradition to give gifts on the feast of the Epiphany rather than on Christmas Day ... following the example of the Three Wise Men.

But, more deeply, of course, the example of the Three Wise Men is not really an invitation to give gifts to one another ... today or on Christmas Day.

The example of the Three Wise Men who came to offer treasures to the Newborn King challenges us to ask ourselves what gifts do you and I bring to the manger?

What gifts do we bring to the Son of God born in human flesh to save us from our sins?

The challenge for us today is not to give gold ... frankincense ...  and myrrh ... but rather, to give what those gifts symbolize ...

 

The Wise Men acknowledged Jesus as King of the Universe with the gift of gold... and if you and I have come to the manger with that same belief ... then we must come, not with gold, but with a renewed commitment to worship our King ... to obey our King ... and to live as our King has taught, ... according to His values, ... living the priorities of his kingdom.

 

 

With the gift of frankincense, the Wise Men acknowledged Jesus as the Great High Priest  who would offer the sacrifice of his life on the altar of the Cross ... and if we come to the manger with the same belief ... then we must come, not with frankincense, but offering our lives to our God, through Christ the High Priest... offering our joys and blessings and successes in thanksgiving to God who is the source of every good ... and offering our sorrows, our worries, our struggles in faith to the God who never fails us.

 

The Wise Men foretold the death of Jesus through the gift of myrrh ... the fact that, in love, Jesus would lay down his life for us sinners ... and if we come to the manger with that same belief ... then we must come, not with myrrh, but with a commitment to the same love that brings us to lay down our lives for those around us  ... not literally, perhaps, but by giving to others the precious gift of our time, our attention, our generosity.

 

 

            The Gospel story of the Wise Man on the feast of the Epiphany is not just a cute little addition to the Christmas story.

Rather, it is given to us to teach us the deeper challenge of the birth of the Savior.

The Three Wise Men came from afar to find the newborn King ... and to "do him homage" ... that is, to honor him ... really, to worship him ...

But the word "homage" ... to "do homage" ... to "pay homage" means something more ... it means that they have come to pay allegiance ... to place themselves at the service of ... to recognize that He is their true King ... and the only King of their lives.

And so too it  must be with us ... we must come not simply to remember the cute story of the Three Kings at the manger scene ... but more, we must come to do Christ homage ... to honor him ... to worship him ... but more, to commit ourselves more deeply to his service ... today ... throughout this new year ... and always.

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