What do we expect ?
One Christmas Eve, when I was a child, the sense of anticipation about the gift I was to receive the next day was so great. I knew I was going to be given the Hornby “Flying Scotsman” which was the king of the range of model railway engines. In fact for those of you who know about such things, I had been confronted by a difficult choice. Did I go for the Flying Scotsman in British Rail livery or the iconic London and North Eastern Railway livery with the number 4472?
Now to check which of you really knows the mind of your priest ….
So what has this to do with the Feast of the Epiphany?
For me it is a reminder of how our thinking about the Epiphany can develop during our lives.
In the days of our youth, when perhaps we were in Nativity plays, the immediate focus is perhaps more on the gifts the Magi brought. But to older minds, when we have put away the train set, so to speak, the significance of the Feast of the Epiphany or Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as it used to be called is the constant reminder that God, through his Son, is for all peoples.
We can also consider our own spiritual journey as we grow in the love of Christ and how in the words of St. Paul in today’s Epistle to the people of Ephesus we are recipients of:
“the boundless riches of Christ”, and the message we have “access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in Christ.”
It is this gift of the boundless riches of Christ that I want to reflect on.
One of the things about St. Paul, who took the Christian message to the non-Jewish peoples, so has a special relationship with the Magi, is that he makes such deeply profound comments, that they can go over our heads.
Are we prepared to give time considering what it means to us when we are told “We are recipients of “the boundless riches of Christ”?
Just how do I take this in, with my list of daily activities, my task list, paying the mortgage or the rent, caring for loved ones, even thinking about today’s lunch, and your priest witters on about “the boundless riches of Christ.”
Is it a better present than a model of the Flying Scotsman?
Or that new car you have just taken delivery of?
Just how are the riches of Christ different?
Well, firstly, they are not a physical possession. They are something that can be felt within rather than without, in the heart and in the head, that can inspire, energise, show us what to do, that can console and forgive.
And so we come to realise that these riches are about relationship. And the best summary of all these qualities that that can give us a spring in the step, the best summary I can think of is the word “love”
St John in his Gospel gives us some clues about the impact on the world and on our individual lives of these riches:
· “the light of the world”
· “those who drink this water will never thirst”
· the Good Shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep
· the gift of eternal life
· the Way, Truth and the Life.
These are some of the boundless riches that inspired St. Paul and the apostles, the Church fathers and mothers, the saints and others who have gifted us faith.
The Truth has given us a way of life and of seeing the world. It has inspired people who have inspired us.
Consider for a moment who these people are, those known to you who have inspired you. Consider how much they owed to the boundless riches of Christ.
And realise too, that the more time we devote to opening our minds to these boundless riches, the richer our lives will become.
So how might we do this?
One very simple way to do this, as we start the New Year, to access the gift of faith and the Church, which can help us to come closer to God and which is easily overlooked, is to study the sets of prescribed readings for each day and services, or the Lectionary as it is called.
Perhaps you might like to make it a resolution this year, to look carefully at how in our Sunday service, the Old and New Testament readings link with the Psalm and the Gospel. They show us how the Christ child is the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament; and the Gospels and Epistles show us how to live and bridge the gap between heaven and earth.
A lot of thought has gone into the preparation of the Lectionary and our services. So what I am going to is to ask you, when you leave to consider taking away today’s Order of Service with you and to re-read during the week, the joyful messages of today’s readings.
From Isaiah 60: “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” and how it links with Psalm 72 “All kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall do him service.”
And in the reading from Ephesians, let us thank God for “the news of the boundless riches of Christ.”
What a wonderful way to start 2019!