“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
January 7th, 2023
Greetings, Fighter, and Happy Epiphany!
Christmas can be great and New Year can be fun too, but Epiphany is my favourite Yuletide festival. It’s certainly the most weird and confronting celebration of the three.
Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas – the day on which my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming (or was it pipers piping)? Either way, the twelve days of Christmas are the twelve days following Christmas Day, the final day of which is Epiphany, when we remember the coming of the ‘wise men’ who followed the star to find Jesus, as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter two.
I have a little wooden nativity set on display near my front door. Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus are at the centre. On one side are the shepherds, accompanied by a handful of animals. On the other side are the wise men, wearing crowns and carrying expensive-looking gifts. They are always there, and yet they are an odd fit.
This is the confronting thing about Epiphany. We’ve just finished exhausting ourselves, celebrating the birth of Jesus with family and loved ones, and then these characters intrude! Who are they? The don’t dress like us or talk like us. They are clearly part of another religion, yet when we ask them what they are doing here, they tell us that God invited them to join us in worshipping Jesus, the new-born king!
There is a lot we don’t know about these characters. They’re known as the ‘three wise men’, but we’re not told how many of them there were, we don’t know that they were especially wise, and we can’t be entirely sure they were all men. The word the Gospel-writer used for them with was ‘magi’, from which we get our word ‘magician’. These people were court magicians, presumably travelling from what is now Iran.
Our parliamentary systems don’t make much use of magicians nowadays (though we still have plenty of clowns). In Biblical times though, officials in courts outside of Israel had to be proficient in a variety of the mystical arts, including magic and astrology. Court officials needed to be able to read the stars, predict the future, and interpret dreams. Inside of Israel though, these practices were forbidden.
The prophet Isaiah says, “Those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons predict what shall befall you. Behold, they are like stubble.” (Isaiah 47:13). Likewise, Jeremiah: “Thus says the LORD: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of these peoples are false.” (10:2‑3)
In the New Testament there are only two references to magi outside of our Epiphany story. A magus turns up in Acts 13, known as ‘Elymas, the false prophet’, and then there’s Simon Magus in Acts 8, who offers money to the Apostles to buy the power of the Holy Spirit! Both these men receive short shrift from the Apostles!
The Biblical record is clear. There is no place for stargazing or magic, and yet, just when we’re getting comfortable around the Christmas tree, ready to belt out another verse of Silent Night with our familiar loved ones, we notice that these odd-looking astrologers have pulled up alongside us! ‘What are you doing here?’, we ask! “We’ve come to worship the new-born king”, they say. “We saw it in the stars!”
This is where Epiphany confronts us every year. It reminds us that the Gospel story is not our story. It’s everybody’s story, and the baby Jesus is not our property. Jesus belongs to everyone – to the faithful and the unfaithful, to the religious and the irreligious, to the good, the bad and the ugly, and even to groups of travelling Iranian astrologers. Jesus belongs to everyone!
Let me work your corner
New Year is the time to get fit and build up energy for the year ahead. Without wanting to boast, I’m healthier and stronger now than I’ve ever felt in my life, and I’m keen to help you reach the same level of fitness. Sign up at Patreon.com and let me work your corner:
Middleweight – $10/month (community mentoring)
- Enrol in the Fighting Fit training program
- Access member-only training videos
- Engage in the members-only forum (which should be online by end of January)
Super-Middleweight $50/month (remote mentoring)
- All of the above +
- One-on-one mentoring via email, phone or Skype
Heavyweight – $100/month (in-person mentoring)
- All of the above +
- Unlimited training at Father Dave’s Old School Boxing Academy
Superheavyweight – $200/month (intensive in-person mentoring)
- All of the above +
- One weekend per month intensive training at Binacrombi Bush Camp.
Every dollar helps keep the wheels of Fighting Fathers Ministries turning – the websites, the newsletters, the broadcasts, the boxing club and the bush camp. Please sign up at Patreon.com.
Our Sunday Eucharist
In the spirit of Epiphany, we had a Muslim as well as Christian commentators discussing the Biblical texts last Sunday. Thank you, Tom and Dave, for another stimulating discussion. I’m back at Binacrombi this weekend and will be joined by Andrew and Lena Madry. We should also have our friend Doug on the panel, joining us from Washington State (USA).
What’s on this week?
- Sunday, January 8th – Our Eucharist is at midday. Join us on www.thesundayeucharist.com, or tune in via your favourite social media site: Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn
- Tuesday, January 10rd – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Thursday, January 12th – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Saturday, January 14th – Boxing from 3.00 pm @The Fight Lab
In closing, I’d appreciate your prayers this week as I work out whether I’m heading to Iran at the end of this month. Iran is in a lot of turmoil at the moment and I’m not champing at the bit to get there. Even so, I’ve been invited, all expenses-paid, both to speak at universities there and to box. How can I say ‘no’? God, give me wisdom.
Your brother in the Good Fight,