It was difficult at first for God’s People who were accepting Jesus as the promised and hoped-for Messiah to allow that perhaps He too was come for the deliverance of the whole world.
"It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
'It’s not enough . . . I will give you also as a light to the Gentiles . . .' God had promised, but not many really believed it, neither Jews nor Gentiles.
The New Testament writers begin almost gently and gingerly to introduce the subject, the idea! - the Person: that Jesus is indeed the Saviour of the world! Now, that's an 'epiphanos' - a manifestation, an enlightening as truth dawns upon us.
This is Epiphany. January 6th of each year in the Christian Calendar commemorates the coming of Jesus by specifically directing our thoughts to those first 'Gentiles' - those ‘wisemen from the East,’ who came to worship Him a short while after His birth.
The difficulty and struggle of their long trip is not given in the Gospel records, but poets have speculated about the inevitable hardship of such a journey, as did T.S. Eliot in his epic - ‘The Journey of the Magi.’ - 'A hard coming we had of it . . .'
So there was that - the sometime struggle of some in the search for God - in Christ. Dry hot days and cold, sharp nights - mixed with faith and fear, doubts and danger. We remember that the ‘nearer’ Jewish boys on the hills near Bethlehem didn’t have to come as far, in terms of distance, culture, perhaps in their understanding of the Old Testament promises of prophets, and so on.
But the wisemen came 'from afar' - in all the ways imaginable to us in terms of culture, language, the journey of discovering and beginning to understand God’s Word and God’s ways. In fact, they came by their own lights, at least by the light of the heavens, the lights of God’s creation, that guided them ultimately to Bethlehem
People come to God in Christ in all kinds of ways.
And it changes them. Changes folk. Has changed my life, utterly.
Again, T.S. Eliot - 'We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation.'
So we encounter, we have that measure of understanding that faith and sight may grant us, these too: gifts of God’s grace. And we return to our jobs and callings, to our sheep, our homes, our lands, but not quite the same as before we came to ‘see’ that it is indeed God in Christ, our Emmanuel, who has come to set the world, our world too, right-side-up.
My life, my home, my vocation and my world are not quite there yet, not quite rightened. But God (and sometimes I join in though mostly I still make a mess of it) is making all things new, lighting the darkness, righting the ship, surfacing the ship-wreck of our lives.
Epiphany is about the Light that shone upon and was received by some who were truly wise, that guided them to Jesus who is for the whole world, not just for some small, exclusive group.
Good news is for sharing but first we have to go and see, come and worship, before ever we will be changed - and as we do we find ourselves more changed, as we return to where we normally show up. We are being transformed gradually and more-so even as we 'go and tell.’
As with gladness, men of oldDid the guiding star beholdAs with joy they hailed its lightLeading onward, beaming brightSo, most glorious Lord, may weEvermore be led to Thee.