The missing myrrh

Epiphany is the time and season when we seek out the Christ who asks us simply, ‘what do you want to do with your life?’

We are transferring Epiphany (6th January) to this Sunday 3rd January so that more people can benefit from the great feast of discovery. The readings for Sunday provide a comparative glance between the poetry of Isaiah’s prophecy and the reportage of the evangelist, Matthew.

One of the most profound differences of the two accounts is that Isaiah omits the gift of myrrh from the treasury of the camel train. The point here is that homage is being made to a king and the rightful gifts of a king include gold – which is of great material value – and frankincense which has much spiritual or liturgical value. Jesus, the material and spiritual king, human and divine, is the host and recipient of the pilgrims’ quest. However, in Matthew’s account, we learn that the Magi also bring the spiced-oil called myrrh. This is the ointment which is ceremoniously applied to the recently departed. This gift proves Jesus’ kingly status, the king who leads his people from death to life into a new kingdom.

Epiphany is the time and season when we seek out the Christ who asks us simply, ‘what do you want to do with your life?’  You are being called to share all the gifts of the kingdom, including the myrrh. In other words, we are called to live in the pain, injustice and hardship which is so very real and present in this world at this time. How much gold are we carrying? Do we have any room for the myrrh which is needed to give people dignity and a sign of resurrection life to come?  Experiencing the pain, hurt and hardship in others is the first step.  Jesus then says, walk on, talk with me, come and see how I will make all things new.

Matthew recorded the delivery of these gifts and, in particular, the Magi’s homage to Jesus in the form of myrrh. Here we understand the nature of their epiphany, the recognition of the King of kings. At the heart of the Christmas story is the personal act of sacrifice and love.

“Lord God, the bright splendour whom the nations seek: may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light discern the glory of your presence in your Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Post Communion prayer for Epiphany from Common Worship

We are in Tier 4 but I would like to encourage you to continue to share the life of faith with us at St Michael’s, Summertown whether physically attending public worship or through our Facebook or YouTube streaming.

Sunday services: 8am Holy Eucharist; 10am Parish Eucharist (with children’s church); 6.30pm Taizé Prayer.

Coffee after Church – if you would like to join up on Zoom with a chat with some familiar faces, please do so. Here is the invitation:
Time: Jan 3rd, 2021 at 11:30am.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels!


Ambivalence and diversity

The voice of January. I am heavy with the winter’s care, furnished only with resolution and need. I wake in darkness and cover the land with cold, dank days. I am a month of anxious twilight hours. Where, I wonder, is my gift? Have I buried it deep in the poor earth? I can’t see it in the skeleton trees. I must not succumb to risk a Spring surprise. I must keep to my word. I am January: slow, unrelenting, the very beginning.

Where are your gifts, January?

The voice of Epiphany. I am the season of wonder. My days are of travel and hope-filled discovery. I am the gift-giver. I am the spark in the crisp, atmospheric light, kindling the Easter flame. Within me are moments of miracle, fragments of mystery, dancing in time. I am the unknown becoming known. I am Epiphany: invisible builder of impending joy.

Difference in human form finding love

Two voices. Two extremes observing the same time and season but with different senses and perspectives. Both are real but the voices are discordant. It is difficult to see how they are one.

At a time when we experience discordant voices, when we experience perspective from divergent places, we need to take time to listen and hear more clearly. Our faith, our politics, our ethics – they are all enmeshed in the prism of ambivalence and diversity. Sometimes it is easy to take polar views. It is easier to be against than with. Sometimes I need to break out of the comfortable position that I have made for myself.

Living with ambivalence and diversity is like living Epiphany in January! It is difficult to find the gift but it is there. At this time in the life of our nation, we are observers seeking generosity, transformation and healing. This is not confined to the Brexit politics of Westminster but speaks on a more profound human level. How can we live and love in ambivalence and diversity as created beings? We have work to do to discover these rich gifts of God.

Learn more about God’s care for all people this Sunday at St Michael & All Angels, Summertown, 8am and 10am.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels! See what’s going on by clicking here which will transport you to our website.

A note from Gavin:  Dear friends, I originally created this blogsite in order to share some observations about the liturgical seasons, hence the name, ‘A Blog for all Seasons.’ However, I made a change of approach and began to write these blogs as a way of commenting weekly on a topic or event. I am now reverting to my original intention, writing less regularly but, I hope, with some relevance about the Christian seasons through which we travel year by year.