Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow
Preached at Diocesan House on The Feast of the Epiphany
6 January 2011
On one of the Twelve Days of Christmas, I cracked a fortune cookie and read: “To truly find yourself you should play hide and seek alone.” The Wise Men weren’t seeking themselves.
The Gospel proclaimed on The Epiphany places us right in the midst of St Matthew’s evangelism, a proclamation that employs repeated formulas.
Often we hear something very like: “this took place to fulfill the words of the prophet…” The Wise Men themselves follow the star having learned about it in the Book of Numbers: “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17).
The Star of Bethlehem signifies God’s protection of God’s people and identifies that protection with Jesus. By following a star, by following a prophecy, the Wise Men find Jesus. What prophecy do you follow until it brings you to look upon his face?
My favorite is the one Jesus uses to disclose and to reveal himself. Shut up in prison, John the Baptist sends some of his followers to Jesus to ask him: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” And Jesus tells them: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (St Matthew 11:2-6).
Jesus refers to Isaiah 29, Isaiah 35, and Isaiah 61 in his answer, and those prophecies lead and draw John and his disciples to Jesus. The really important thing is that it really doesn’t matter which prophecy or which truth you follow or seek. They all lead to him.
You can be a bricklayer or an attorney, a machine-worker or a writer, trying to do it the best way or the cleanest way, the smartest way or the honestest way, and your steps will lead you to him, for he knows the bricks, understands the laws and the machines, and comprehends the words. For they are his, and so are you.