January – The missing parts of the story
6 January: Epiphany of the Lord
We don’t know a lot about the wise men who visited Jesus. We don’t know if they were Kings and we don’t know how many there were. We assume there were three because of the three gifts presented to Jesus and we assume they were kings because these gifts were lavish, they were important enough for Herod to notice them and because of the reference to Kings in Psalm 72, but the text doesn’t actually tell us any of this.
We don’t know exactly when they arrived, though we know that it was not likely to be at the same time as the shepherds as our nativity scenes would suggest. We don’t know what happened to them after they left by another road. We don’t hear of them again. What we know is that they were there, and in being there they changed many lives. I wonder if their visit to the Christ Child changed their lives?
How might the thing you do change the lives of those you encounter this year? How will you allow others to change you?
13 January: Baptism of Christ
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
If we just read the verses given to us it the lectionary we could be forgiven for coming away from this text with certain assumptions, that will differ depending on how well we know the other Gospels. If we know the other Gospels well, we assume that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. If we don’t know the story of the other Gospels we could assume that John simply disappears into the wilderness, once the proclaimed Messiah has come.
If we read the missing verses, namely Luke 3. 18-20 we discover Luke doesn’t seem to agree with any of these assumptions. In the missing verses, rather than disappearing into obscurity, John the Baptist is thrown in prison, before Jesus is Baptised. It is therefore safe to assume that, according to Luke, John didn’t baptise Jesus, nor did he just disappear. According to Luke we don’t know who baptised Jesus. Luke does not say. I wonder if, for Luke, the importance of the story was not who baptised Jesus, but rather that he was baptised.
That the Messiah, who John the Baptist felt himself not worthy to tie his shoes, was baptised just as all the other people baptised that day were- just as you and I were, or perhaps will be when you are ready to take that step.
Why do you think the lectionary writers left out verses 18-20? What difference does it make to Luke’s story to include them?
20 January: Epiphany 2
One of the most common tricks of a magician is to make things disappear, or to make things appear in place of something else or where there was nothing at all. And if we read this story about Jesus, independently of any other stories we could be forgiven for assuming that Jesus was simply a magician, a conjurer who turned water into wine. And then we begin to wonder how he did it?
Like a magician who uses slight of hand or distraction to perform the trick, how did Jesus really turn water into wine? Of course, we know that Jesus did not perform magic. We know that there is more to story to the story to that.
The point of the story has much greater depth than a simple slight of hand deception. So what is the story really about? Why wine from water? Why was the first thing of Jesus’ adult ministry that the writer of John chooses to include? And why does he include the perspective of the different people? Why is it important that it is the mother of Jesus seems to encourage her son’s actions?
What other questions might we ask to discover the missing story that we need to know?
27 January: Epiphany 3
Psalm 19 is one of my favourite Psalms and gives me great comfort. It reminds me that God speaks often and always, without words but through the sun and the sky, through the moons and stars and the wind.
I have this idea in my head that when God paints a sunset, a perfect picture in the clouds, God is painting a picture just for me, because even though I know lots of other people see the same cloud or the same sunset, they don’t quite see the things I do, because their feet are not quite on the same piece of earth that mine are. And yet I am the first to admit that I often miss God’s words.
Though they are there, I am too hurried, or too caught up in what I am doing. As January ends and the year ahead begins in earnest I invite you to reflect on how you might choose not to miss the voice of God in your life in the coming weeks and months.
How will you take extra time to notice God in your story?
These Lectionary Reflections were prepared by Rev. Danielle Hemsworth-Smith