The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Introduction to the readings for the first Sunday in Epiphany, January 8, 2017

In our first reading from the Hebrew texts, the prophet Isaiah addresses an audience of dismayed and discouraged listeners newly returned to their beloved Jerusalem after forty years in exile. 

Listen to how Isaiah’s words of encouragement might offer a sense of hope in the midst of many swirling emotions and struggling re-building community entails.

Reading from Isaiah, Chapter 60: verses 1-6

Arise, shine, for your light has come

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of God has risen upon you. 

For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but God will arise upon you and God’s glory will appear over you. 

Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 

Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away; and your daughters shall be carried in their nurses’ arms. 

Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 

A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah (pronounced ehf-ah); all those from Sheba shall come. 

They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.”

Here ends our first reading this day as we celebrate the start of the season of Epiphany.

In response to these words, let us sing together from VU 89

“From a Distant Home”.

Our second reading for this morning comes to us from the gospel according to Matthew. 

It’s a familiar reading we have heard hinted about already this morning. 

First in our opening hymn and again in the Isaiah reading.

It's also a story within a story.

It’s a story about seekers and finders; about gift givers and gift receivers;

and

It’s a story about how when tradition and power are disturbed, malevolence is born.

It’s also a story about the manifestation of God’s glory in a most unexpected place.

Finally, it’s a story about how dreams embodied can change lives.

Listen with fresh ears to this story, taken from the second chapter of Matthew, verses 1-12 The Visit of the Magi

“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.” 

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rules of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people, Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 

Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 

On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. 

Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. 

Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church.

Thanks be to God, amen.