For a full copy of the Newsletter please click on the link; Epiphany of the Lord 07012018
The magi gave the child Jesus ‘gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh’. Why did they bring him gifts? These would not have been useful for Mary’s child. What would they have done with them?
The point, of course, is not that Jesus’ family needed these presents, though presumably gold always comes in handy! These gifts were not in recognition of what he wanted, but of who he was. The gold was the recognition of his kingship, the frankincense of his priesthood and the myrrh of the death that he would die.
So the magi gave him gifts in honour of the gift that he was to them, and is to us. These gifts show not that the child Jesus was needy but that we are, who long for this priestly king who gave his life for us. The magi go to seek him with their bags full of precious things, but more importantly they depart with their hands empty, and thus able to receive the gift of all that Jesus is.
Contrast this with how Herod sees the child, as a threat to what he possesses, to his kingship and riches. His hands are too full to receive the gift that he too is offered in Christ. If we are to receive the gifts of this Epiphany, then we must empty our hands too.
This Christmas most of us would have given and received gifts. We have probably looked for gifts that our friends do need. Even more profoundly our gifts are, like those of the magi, in recognition of who are the people whom we love. We delight in their humanity. If we give them books or wine, it is not just because they need these things, but because we take pleasure in the pleasure that they will have in them. We celebrate their enjoyment.
But the heart of all these celebrations is the one who needs no gifts from us, but is pure gift. His very being is given to Him by the Father from all eternity, and He comes to give Himself to us in turn. To receive that gift then, we too need empty hands. We need to recognise that God’s fullness of life is what we most deeply yearn for and create a space to receive it.
The Herods of this world cannot receive the gift, for it would mean letting go of their own fullness and self-satisfaction. They can only see the powerless child as a threat. At the doorway to 2018 we remember that the magi go to seek the Christchild with their bags full of precious things, but more importantly, they depart with their hands empty, and thus able to receive the gift of all that Jesus is. At the Start of this New Year,
may God bless you and yours.
Fr Peter Brannelly
Dean of the Cathedral