Happy New Year!
I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas and a lovely new year.
This Sunday marks the end of the Christmas season with the celebration of Epiphany (technically on 6th January) and our readings will be focussing on the wise men (however many there were of them) and their gifts brought before Jesus. In our 9:30 family service we will be exploring the worship of the wise men and thinking about their gifts. There will be gold crowns, burnt incense, and Myrrh.
As well as the Gospel reading from the traditional Matthew passage (2:1-12) our lectionary readings (Isaiah 60, Psalm 72, and Ephesians 3) all mention non-Jews (Gentiles) coming to worship God/
What is strange is that in many ways the celebration of that worship doesn’t resonate with me. I am, roughly speaking, a gentile, I have some jewish heritage, but it is 2 generations back and Judaism has not been observed in my recent family history. I am someone who according the Old Testament was outside of the people of God, not part of the community of faith. I am excluded from God’s grace by the law of Moses. I cannot go into the presence of God or into the inner courts of the place of worship. I cannot be taught what the scripture means. Even if I converted there is the risk that I would still be considere an outsider, a second class citizen.
The notion of being an outsider doesn’t ring true for me. It can’t for a white, middle-class man, living in the UK. I am haven’t experienced being on the outside so I can’t imagine what it’s like. In our community we are, to varying degrees, highly priveleged. Yet according to Sunday’s readings I am an outsider and heaven rejoices that I have been brought into the fold.
God has a history of drawing in the outsider. He chooses the barren woman (Sarah), the second son (Jacob rather than Esau), the youngest brother (Joseph), the fugitive (Moses), the widow (Ruth), the child (Samuel, David, Jeremiah, and Josiah). He takes the weak and poor and makes them strong, he includes the outsider in his plans. In fact neither Ruth, nor Obed, nor Jesse, nor David, nor Solomon should have even been allowed to be part of the people of God because of their Moabite heritage (Deuteronomy 23:3). Yet David becomes king.
God draws all people to himself, regardless of position or background and we should celebrate when he does. We were all the outsiders but he has welcomed us in. Epiphany celebrates those who were on the outside (despite their privilege) and who have sought after God. Let us be like them, that we might be drawn into the centre and welcome others in with us.
8am – Holy Communion at All Saints’
9:30am – Contemporary Family Service at St Peter’s
11am – Sung Eucharist at St Peter’s
4pm – Evensong at St Paul’s