Monday, January 8, 2018

The Journey of Wise Men - Then and Now


The Feast of Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th, the 12th Day of Christmas. As in any story, it impacts us most if we see ourselves in it, when we become one of the characters acting in the story itself.  When we read an ancient story {or any story for that matter}, we can imagine what it must have been like to be there, to experience it, to be faced with the circumstances those we read about faced, and to contemplate what our choice might have been if it had been us. 




For Epiphany, the story is found in Matthew 2:1-12.  This is my summary of the well loved and ancient text: Wise people - the curious, the seekers, the analytical ones, the intelligent ones, the spiritually sensitive ones - recognize the sign of an incredible event, and go on a journey to find the meaning.  They go prepared, they embarked on a journey, they remain alert, they find what they were looking for, these wise, intelligent, curious, scientists remain open to the supernatural, bow in worship, and return to their home, different than when they left.


What lessons can I learn by their story?*


1. Follow the star to where it leads

The story begins with the our travelers heeding the message that comes in the night.  Navigation in ancient times was largely by stars and constellations. Travelers had to know the night sky and trust the path through darkness and unknowing. Embracing mystery was a regular occurrence, a part of life.  So often we want exactness, assurances, predictability, to know the end before we begin or we won't begin.  This isn't living in the reality of the world we are a part of - it is trying to create fiction.  The wise men travel along on a journey with no set answers, but with knowledge and faith about what their destination will hold...this drives their preparation.
What journey are you being called to? What is your "map", your "guide"? Is there a path to follow, even if the endpoint is not directly known?  How will you know when you reach the end? What preparations do you need to make to go on the full journey?


2. Make the journey your own
We must act.  We must initiate the journey and travel the path.  If we stay "home" (where we are comfortable, where we are right now) we will never find that destination we are being stirred to seek out, we may not find that Hope, that Purpose, that Person who promises to be our Lord and Savior.  We cannot life on our parents' or friends' faith...we must make faith our own.  Herod and all Jerusalem see the signs, but will not travel 3 miles to find the Hope that awaits there.  They want to remain in control (granted it is an illusion, but it is what they know and are familiar with) 
Where are you content to allow other's opinions to shape yours?  Where are you telling yourself you are "OK where you are" and not making a journey to freedom, hope and stability?  Where are you reading and learning, but never stepping out in action yourself? How might you enter into your own journey of life more deeply this year?


3. Open your heart to joy by recognizing God's hand
The scriptures tell us that "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” In the original language, the last 'joy' means "grace recognized".  The fullness of the verse indicates that they rejoiced abundantly because they recognized God's grace! A sign in the sky such as this star must have been could strike terror into men's hearts, or men might have been mostly indifferent like Herod and the religious leaders of their day.  Or, men can recognize God is doing something powerful and rejoice. 
What circumstances do you need to see "grace recognized"? In looking at the past, where has God's grace blossomed when you faced unknowns and journeys you didn't necessarily choose?  How can these times direct how you face they mystery and unknowns of a new year?


4. Look for holy encounters in humble places
The wise man find a humble baby in a home and they bow down and prostrate themselves in worship. Prostration is an act of humility and honor. 
As you encounter the holy in every ordinary place you move, how might the wise men's actions be adopted into your situation? How can you embrace the sovereignty of God in every situation, every moment, every day?


5. What if you haven't prepared to meet your King?
The wise men give baby Jesus the gifts they have brought of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. There is much rich teaching about these gifts and what they symbolize!  But for our purposes I want to focus on the fact that each gift represents one of Jesus' offices: 1) gold represents His Kingship and Deity, 2) frankincense acknowledges His High Priestly authority and position as Intercessor (corresponding to prayer - both his and ours), and 3) myrrh represents His position as Messiah - the Anointed One and His anointing.  The gifts show that the wise men acknowledged Jesus as the One prophesied to come.
In what ways can I show Jesus is my King? In what ways can I show that He is my High Priest?  In what ways can I show that He is my Messiah?


6. Listen to the voice of the Lord, in any way He talks to you
The wise men - in their intelligence and wisdom - remained open to the supernatural, and acknowledged that the Lord had led them thus far, and listened when He spoke to them through a dream.  God loves us and in that love communicates with us.  He will warn us, comfort us, lead us.  He speaks to us many ways, through dreams and visions, through the written Scriptures, and through gentle guidance and leadings of the heart.  In our culture, the supernatural tends to be frowned upon, even in Christian circles.  Belief in a personal God is relegated to superstition and simple mindedness.  But true science always points to an Intelligent Creator.  And He came to be "Emmanuel, God With Us".  His presence with us means He WILL speak to us!
How do you know when God is speaking to you? Do you act on it? Commit to following His voice, His communication with you this year and acting on it.  Again, keep a journal to document your journey.


7.  Be open to change
The wise men heed the message from God they received in a dream; they go home by a different way. When we encounter God, we are changed, our journey (or at least how we experience our journey in life) changes, it takes on a new meaning. 
How does hearing God change you? How does hearing God change how you approach life (or does it)?  Is there some area He is speaking to you that requires a change?  Spend some time allowing awareness of these areas to emerge.  Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to change you or are you resisting?  Have you ever had problems/trouble because you didn't heed the Lord's words - either generally in the Scripture or specifically through the ways He speaks to you?  Is there any place you are resisting His direction for you? Do you KNOW that you hear God speak to you? How can you develop an "ear to hear" if you don't already know (hint: ask someone whose spiritual walk you respect)? 
Spend some time every week this year to reflect on the story of the wise men and on your answers to these questions.  Document the journey you are on through journaling {written or art}
*Response from an article from http://abbeyofthearts.com/blog/2017/01/06/feast-of-epiphany-follow-the-star/

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