Updated: Jan 30
This is the last week of the Advent-Christmas seasons, the second Sunday after Christmas.
Thus, the anticipation of Jesus being born again has happened. Our pregnancy has gone full term and we have delivered the baby Jesus.
Today is also the tenth day of Christmas, so it is time to take down the tree and decorations on Tuesday. (You can leave the lights along the rooftop and in the shrubs, if you want, but just know it is tacky to turn them on before next Thanksgiving … or whenever the advertisers decide when to first show the Santa of a Norelco shaver in the snow commercial, or the “Oh Christmas Tree” – Corona beer on a palm tree on the Mexican coast commercial, since that lets us know when to start redecorating.)
After today, we will enter into the season of Epiphany.
The word “epiphany” means, “A revelatory manifestation of a divine being,” or “A sudden insight or intuitive understanding.” Ecclesiastically, it is, “A Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi, traditionally observed on January 6.”
For that reason (partially) we have the option of reading from Matthew about the Magi, or “wise men from the east,” either when they met Herod and then the baby Jesus, or when they leave the baby Jesus and return home. Both are from Matthew chapter two, but we only read the last part aloud (verses 13-15 and 19-23).
Let’s set aside the festival part of Epiphany for now, and focus on “a sudden manifestation of a divine being,” and look especially at how that is accompanied by “a sudden insight or intuitive understanding.” That is what the readings focus on today, such that the central theme is on wisdom, as reflected in the “wise men.”
Throughout the season of Advent, where we prepare for the coming of Christ, born again as the baby Jesus within each of us, and these last two weeks of Christmas – the Twelve days of Christmas – we have given birth to a new self.
We hope to have been reborn as Jesus. That should be our goal in the seasons of Advent and Christmas. But, the work does not end there, as there is a newborn to raise.
If you have children of your own, then you know the work is just beginning when the baby enters the scene.
The responsibility that keeps on keeping on.
That is an epiphany, because the child that became pregnant has forever gone upon delivery of a baby, bringing about an adult … a parent … a caregiver.
In the song from Jeremiah today, we hear God tell the prophet, “I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.”
In the Book of Genesis, the person named Ephraim was actually the second child of Joseph and his Egyptian wife, Asenath. Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob, who name was changed to become Israel. All of those biblical characters lived long before Jeremiah, so when God said that to Jeremiah, there was nothing about Israel or Ephraim that was a current event. Still, for that remembrance to be prophetic, the meaning has to be seen as more than a history lesson.
The name Ephraim means, “Two-fold Increase,” or “Doubly Fruitful.” It is a combination name, where the number “two” is combined with the root meaning of “fruitful.” Thus, God was not talking so much about a baby named Ephraim, but instead how he fathered a nation of people … Israel … only to have them become scattered, so God would have that fallen nation reborn … a second exercise in fruitfulness.
God would be Doubly Fruitful with His flock. Thus, God led the Israelites out of Egypt through Moses the first time; but after Israel became scattered, God called Joseph, the father of baby Jesus, out of Egypt, to fulfill the original prophecy that had failed.
Twice, God’s gift to mankind … His own set of priests for the world to be led by … would come from Egypt.
Now in one of the alternate readings from Matthew, chapter two, the first twelve verses have us hear God tell this to Joseph. He said, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
That is a reference to the prophet Hosea, from the eleventh chapter of his book. However, if you read the whole chapter you cannot easily see how there was a prophecy that needed to be fulfilled. It appear to tell of how Israel had fallen away from God, to the point of being scattered.
BUT … in the Book of Hosea, in chapter eleven, God mentions his son Israel and then refers to Israel as Ephraim.
Number one son, Israel, led by Moses after God called.
Or, does He? For a prophecy to be fulfilled by Joseph taking baby Jesus back to Galilee, from Egypt, the fulfillment of prophecy was doubly fulfilled.
Now this brings up the point of prophecy not being easy to understand. It was impossible to see the words of Hosea as a prophecy of Jesus, until after Jesus was born AND after God had to let Joseph know the meaning of Hosea’s words were prophetic.
Joseph leading Jesus, Number Two Son, out of Egypt after God called.
This means, stated symbolically and not as a clear instruction written into a document approved to be in the Holy Bible, 1.) The Holy Bible is a collection of books (a library or “biblios”) that are holy, thereby prophetic; and 2.) You need God coming to you and telling you what deeper meaning is – that which is hidden, unseen, and there but you can’t understand it without help.
In the reading from Matthew today [first alternate selection – Matthew 2:13-23], after the Lord told Joseph to take baby Jesus to Egypt, to fulfill a prophecy, we then read, “There [in the district of Galilee, Joseph, Mary and Jesus] made his (Jesus’) home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazarene.”
When you read this, it makes inquiring minds want to look up which prophets said that. Therefore, I did a search of the Internet and entered the question, “Which prophets said “He will be called a Nazarene”?
The answer was clearly, “Only Matthew said that. No prophets said the Messiah would be called a Nazarene.”
I found one blog site where some man seemed perturbed that not only did no prophet (in the singular) utter that prophecy, but Matthew stating “prophets” in the plural was doubly wrong. How dare he be so wrong!?!? His point was, “Wrong means less reason to believe anything.”
That is “human wisdom” speaking.
Then it became so clear to me. The prophets never said the Messiah would come from Nazareth. They said he would be born in Bethlehem [the alternate reading from Matthew 2:1-12 states this, quoting from Micah 5:2 and 5:4]. Those prophets would would have their prophecy fulfilled because Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. However, he would be called a Nazarene by everyone who would later come to know he lived in Nazareth. Had he been called a Bethlehemite, then he would have been killed by Herod’s orders, keeping the prophecy from being fulfilled.
It is so clear … once one has been led to awareness … from a higher power … because we read with human minds first and foremost, so that we can only understand with human minds … initially. Our human mindset limits us from seeing the parts that require a divine mind.
[In the alternate reading from Luke 2:41-52, where Joseph and Mary leave Jerusalem after the Passover festival, headed back to Nazareth, only to realize they had left Jesus – then a twelve year old – behind, we read in verse 52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.”
This is stating how there are two ways to read and understand what we sense from Scripture. We understand some that is written, due to human minds receiving favor from God. Still, there is more, which requires divine favor.
Joseph and Mary found Jesus in the temple among rabbis … or teachers … after they had searched all of Jerusalem looking for him, for three days. When they finally found Jesus, he was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
Jesus was taking the time to be schooled (or educated, intellectually increased in awareness) about what was written about his faith and religion. The teachers holding “class” were reading aloud the passages of the Torah and then discussing their meanings. One can imagine Jesus was in the temple, doing that for up to five days, after the Passover festival ended and up until his parents found him.
Jesus, the young boy who was still learning things, said to Mary, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?”
Where else was a student of God’s written relationship with Israelites supposed to be?
If you have been pregnant with the baby Jesus inside you, and if you were born anew as Jesus on Christmas Day, then you need to put yourself in the place of young Jesus. You need to hear Mary be the voice of God asking you, “I have been searching for you in great anxiety!”
Then, your answer should be, “I’m here Lord, studying your Word, trying to understand divinely what I have only seen with human eyes before. You know I must be in your house.”]
These are the floor plans for the Father’s house. Read them and you are there.
[In the alternate reading from Matthew 2:1-12, we read how the wise men appeared before Herod, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” We translate “Magi” as “wise men,” which fits a theme of “wisdom,” and we assume some divinely enlightened wisdom has led three men to ask that question.
This is true, but can you see how Matthew, writing as a prophet inspired by God, had the Magi say, “We observed his star rising” because that was an astrological statement? Can you see how the Magi were “wise” in astrology and the “star” was a major planet, a light seen brighter in the night sky, which was moving into aspect with the chart of Jerusalem, or the Second Temple, or the freedom from Babylon? Can you see their astrological interest in a “king of the Jews” was because they themselves were Jews, lifelong students and priests of the Kabbala? Can you see them going to Herod because he was the king of Judea (also Jewish), and they thought perhaps he was the one who had sired a baby? Can you see the place in the East, from which the Magi came, as being Babylon, with them the descendants of Jews who remained scattered there? Can you see their trip to Jerusalem coinciding with a festival that made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem a doubly good excuse to go pay homage to a new baby king expected to be born at that time?
Astrology, like any form of divinity, is only wisdom when led by God to foresee the future.
Do you think if this reading were discussed by teachers in Bible Studies, the teachers would hear those questions with amazement and understanding, as if someone who should not know such things was speaking not from human wisdom, but from divine favor?
In the quote from Micah that prophesied the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, Micah actually said, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” The word “Ephrathah” is the root for Ephraim, meaning “Fruitful.” Bethlehem would be fruitful, bringing forth the Savior, who would later flee to Egypt and then return … as Ephraim … Doubly Fruitful … the Two-fold Increase from God.
This is how each of us is “small among the” whole “clan” of Christianity, so we flee from our religious responsibility, as it should be. If we do not experience the world as humans, gaining human wisdom, then how can we experience the divine as different? How would we be able to know which favor is better?
However, once we are called to return, once we feel in our hearts the touch of Christ, and sense the call of God to serve Him, we too must be reborn into a new life, as a Two-fold Increase as Christians, led by Christ the king.
We must know to travel a different path than the one that took us to that day of paying homage, just as the three Magi listened to their dream and followed that divine recommendation.
We must be able to see the symbolism of “gold” as the metal of Christ, as King. Gold is a metal that shines and gloriously reflects light. We must see the burning of frankincense as the transformation our lives must take, just as we see service to God’s house means burning away an adherence to the worldly and becoming the essence of spirituality that scented smoke represents. We must be able to recognize how myrrh is the perfumed embalming ointment that we must cover our flesh with, burying the old self, so we can become the new self, devoted to God and Christ.]
The readings today [and all of the Gospel alternative readings] point to there being two types of wisdom – one of human understanding and one of divine understanding. Our mind needs to grow through years of dedicated study and devotion so that the Christ child within us can bring us to a divine state of awareness.
We are just babes in swaddling clothes now, newborns with years of dedicated devotion still before us. We must develop basic knowledge of what it is we profess to believe in. We must be educated, as symbolic seminarians listening to our teachers, led to ask amazing questions, and produce amazing revelations, before we can fully become ministers of Christ for the world, becoming true priests for the One God.
This is what Paul wrote to the Ephesians, when he stated, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.”
Now, that is a huge chunk of meat to swallow without chewing first. It is the bread of Christ, which must be consumed for us to have remembrance of Jesus the Son of God. It is the food of prophecy that foretold of Jesus, which nourishes us to feel the blood of Christ cursing within our veins.
Let’s review all that Paul said:
“The spirit of wisdom” means an understanding from divine favor.
“Revelation” is an epiphany, as a sudden understanding of something not seen before.
“The eyes of your heart enlightened” speaks of the emotions that link to God and Christ, bringing the baby Jesus into your being so you can be enlightened in ways never known before, through the human mind’s wisdom.
“The hope that he has called to you,” means hearing God ask, “Child, why has it taken you so long to be found?” It is a call to be Ephraim, as Doubly Fruitful as a Christian … to become hope for others.
“The riches of his glorious inheritance” becomes your own symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, because you have replaced the human you with the divine baby Jesus, inheriting him within, to properly display without.
“Among the saints” means you forever more going without sin, not because you will yourself to abstain from sin, but from your love of the Holy Spirit keeps you from being attracted to anything other than God. It means you become an Apostle to Christ.
“The immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe” says the full ability to understand everything comes to us from our dedication. God’s power has brought us to see, through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, adopting us as His own, sending us the mind of Christ, through which to serve Him.
Let us each see these last two-plus days of Christmas have us led to an Epiphany where this greatness of God’s power begins to develop inside everyone of us.
Let today be the first day towards our new education, a new dedication to learning what is behind our faith, through reading, listening and asking questions … and praying for answers.
Let us begin to be obedient to the Father, so we may increase in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
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