We are in the last few days of Christmas, our season of worshipping that vulnerable and divine baby Emmanuel, God-with-us. As we celebrate Epiphany Sunday, we may be excited to continue the joy of the season, continue worshipping the Light of our World along with the wise man. This story contains much joy in receiving Christ but it also contrasted with the violent rejection of him by the people of power, namely King Herod, and the holy family fleeing with fear.
We are faced with the vulnerability of Jesus, in need of protection and in search of safety. This story speaks to the chaos of becoming refugees, an experience alive in our world today, as well as the need for safe places to worship, grow, and be in community free from violence and abuse. What is the good news for us at Epiphany as congregations, pastors, safe church leaders, Sunday school teachers, parents, and others strive to be a safe place to welcome the Christ child, each of God’s children, into? These few teachings stand out to me as we gather with the magi this Sunday.
First, this scripture highlights the temptations and the dangers of those in positions of power, especially if and when people feel their power is being threatened. As a result of feeling threatened, Herod sought to use the wise men to gain information about and access to Jesus, the baby who some called a king. When that didn’t work, and the babe remained hidden in safety, Herod ordered the killing of all infants.
Power is not inherently good or bad. However, any situation of abuse always contains abuse of power over an individual or a community. In our congregations, communities, and world we must seek to follow the power of Jesus Christ, the power of love that casts out fear, cares for those whom the world considers the last and the least, and responds to violence not with violence but with an opening for reconciliation, healing, and hope. We pray that the Herods of our world, those who perpetrate abuse, can turn around to see the power of love revealed beneath that Epiphany star.
Second, contrary to the desires of Herod, a safe space was created to worship and celebrate Jesus. The wise men journeyed to the manger overwhelmed with joy! They shared their gifts with the child, worshipping God in him and embarking on a relationship with him. There is much joy in helping to create and maintain safe places and joy is more readily encountered when we feel safe. We pray our churches may be places for all to worship and develop a relationship with Jesus with that same joy that was felt by the wise men. From infants and children to leaders and elders, we are called to worship and follow Jesus with joy!
Finally, when danger arises we must care for one another and sometimes, caring for ourselves means finding a safe place. The wise men went home by another way and the holy family fled to another community for safety. We grieve when people need to leave a community because they do not feel safe, and yet, we honour their decisions by continuing to offer support and a path towards healing. The family was able to return and make a home once again. As churches, we must seek to bring healing where abuse has occurred, giving space for the survivor to make their own decisions and helping them find safety, wherever that might be. This is not a quick journey, it is one that requires time and understanding.
And so, as our celebrations of Christmas wind down, and we make our journey to worship at the manger and celebrate Epiphany with the magi, let us go forth with this blessing:
May God guide us to act with the power of love in Christ.
May Jesus nurture safe and loving relationships within our church.
And may the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey towards love, safety, and healing.