Materials for Worship on the Feast of the Epiphany 2023

Rachael writes:

Like much of the Christmas story, the journey of the Wise Men (Luke 2.1-12) can begin to feel like any other myth, legend, or fairy tale. We know it well but it’s something from another world. These travelers from the East (maybe Kings themselves? or Magi: priests, astrologers, and magicians?) with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, are more well-known than the angels and their declaration of the glory of God. Even with the primary 7 pupils who attended The Christmas Journey, we had to work hard to get them to think of other things you might bring a baby, they were so keen to share their knowledge of this part of the story.

We’ve lost something of the wonder or mystery of this story. There’s little to no sense of awe to accompany it but it is wondrous and mystical. It’s an epiphany!

Tisso, “Magi”

These were strangers from the East, or more literally, “from the rising of the sun”. Their name suggests that they were of the priestly Magos class in the Zoroastrian religion from the Persian empire which stretched from modern day Eastern Syria to the fringes of India – that’s anything from about 500 to 2500 miles away. On foot. Through foreign lands. For a star. A prophecy. A King.

If the shepherds show us that Jesus came for the lowliest in society, the Wise Men show us that he came for all the world. They are strangers in every way – in ethnicity, nationality, and religion. They are truly aliens in a foreign land.  Nobody was expecting them but still they came. And now they are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise of Christ’s Good News.

They came, following the star. A light in the sky but not a neon sign, with an arrow saying “Here!”. An unusual brightness but not a google maps print out nor a set of sat nav directions. Imagine their excitement at first seeing it, as their prophecies had foretold. Imagine their questions. Their fears and anxieties. Imagine their hopefulness for all that it might mean. Did you notice that they saw the star rise and then travelled Jerusalem, to their best guess as to the location of the King of the Jews? They saw a sign and they headed out, not knowing if they were correct but using the knowledge that they had to do their best.

And then they ask for help: “Where is the child?”. They don’t presume to have the full picture and they’re not too proud to ask those who might know more. They had lived with these questions through all their travels. I wonder if they were disappointed when the answer was, “Another day’s journey that way…”. I wonder if they knew then that Herod had his own agenda, if they got a sense that this wasn’t a person to entirely be trusted.

Only then does the star move, guiding them more precisely, leading them to the “place where the child lay”. And there they fall on their knees in worship before him. They worship the King in a moment beyond intellectual understanding, a moment of deep knowing: of epiphany. It demanded a response of them so, along with themselves in worship, they offered their gifts – gifts for a King who would face great suffering. How did they know?

These were strangers who followed an inclination, asked for help, discerned the way forward, trusted the light, and who in humble recognition, offered what they had.

It’s the story of faith. We may feel like we know it well, or it may feel more like a story that we’re just beginning. But the thing about these stories is that they can become stale. Like a well-known myth or legend, they can become background noise that we don’t really pay close attention to.

Mike Moyers, “Awake My Soul”

The Wise Men remind us that no matter who we are, we are invited on this journey. And there we will see many signs and wonders – perhaps a star in the sky, or a dream in the night, or the kindness of stranger, or the love of a friend – that will point and guide us towards God. Can you remember such an awakening moment in your own life? Are you open to, even actively looking, for more? Along the way, it is good to ask for help: we are not on this journey alone and questions help all of us to grow. God gives us the church as a place of encouragement and discernment because our faith is not one to be practiced alone. There can, however, still be times of darkness and in them, like the Wise Men, we keep putting one foot in front of the other, holding onto hope in the Light that cannot be overcome. We need to continually be discerning our next steps, including how we navigate the twisted value systems of this world that might try to pull us off course. Are we open to dreams and signs and the still, small voice? If we’re going to pay attention to such things, we need to cultivate space in our lives for those moments of recognition and self-giving.

The eucharist is one beautiful place where that can happen. In it we see Christ’s self-giving and in return we together offer ourselves. A single, holy, living sacrifice. A moment of epiphany.

But these things – revelation, discernment, the help of others, self-giving – aren’t things to be relegated to church. We should expect and pursue them in all of life. How will you prepare for, and seek, epiphany in the coming year?


For prayerful pondering:

Name and give thanks for a moment of wonder.

Resolve to offer your gift this year in a particular way.

Name some aspect of darkness and pray for light.

Name a companion on the journey and give thanks for their support.


O God, who, by the guidance of a star,

revealed your only-begotten Son to the nations:

Grant that we, who know you now by faith,

may at the last be led to see your glory face to face;

through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.