’In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan.’ From today’s Gospel, Mark 1:4-11.
“ A cold coming we had of it. Just the worst time of the year. For a journey and such a long journey.” T.S. Eliot, The journey of the Magi.
This week, I had to make a journey from the East Midlands back to Wales but storm Henk was causing huge problems. Many places were already flooded by the River Trent with more rain to come and so I started with a hopefulness that I would be ahead of the further downpours. However, within ten minutes of setting out, a flooded road meant that I had to take a detour through Derby and onto the A38 rather than the planned M50. A further diversion was both simple and quick but then a notice of a road closure with no diversion set up was a surprise which threw me. My satnav kept telling me to turn around, which I couldn’t do due to the closure, and at one point, it directed me to take the M6 to Birmingham. That was the opposite direction in which I needed to travel and I began to think I would need to go back and set out again the next day when the flooding had subsided. However, a slip road onto the A5 meant that I began to travel towards Telford, although in a very circuitous way. I persevered although my journey took me over twice as long as normal – I was cold and tired but also relieved that I did get back eventually at a time when so many found themselves stranded or flooded out.
At least I knew where I was trying to get to but, in this season of Epiphany, my journey made me think of that of the Magi who travelled for much longer without being sure of where they were going. Matthew’s Gospel relates that they turned up in Jerusalem, presumably thinking that a new king would be born in the seat of power, thus alerting King Herod and leading to the massacre of the innocents. Having found their way to the Christ child, they then went back by another route. This applied to the Holy Family too, who had to flee as refugees to Egypt – did they know where they were going or have contacts there? The perseverance and willingness to change plans of those in the Biblical narratives are reminders that those characteristics are much needed today, too.
The Gospel today records the baptism of Jesus, traditionally thought to have been on 6th January, as an epiphany because of the words, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” With the descent of the dove as a visible sign of the Holy Spirit, so Jesus the adult is revealed as one of the Trinity, a revelation recorded by St John Chrysostom in the fourth century thinking of his day: “It was not when he was born that he became manifest to all, but when he was baptised.”
Whatever we may think of the Epiphany stories and their origins then, there are times in our lives when we may be clear where we’re going, sometimes confused or even lost as we seek the way ahead. The revelations these times bring to those who seek the light as well as the way ahead may be helpful as well as challenging, often in much smaller but significant ways than we may realise as we play our part in the stories unfolding around us today:
“The epiphany was simply tucked away for consideration after we were back…. Sometimes a revelation comes with a flash of heavenly light and a booming voice – and sometimes it is jotted in a sun-bleached spiral notebook.” JA Lockwood.
With my prayers; pob bendith,