Epiphany - Lost in wonder, love and praise

Rev'd Heather
Sunday, January 5, 2020 - 9:30am

Changed from glory into glory,

Till in Heav’n we take our place,

Till we cast our crowns before Thee,

Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

You might recognise these words from the end of the popular hymn Love Divine. They talk so beautifully of heaven, of being able to gaze on God’s glory and join in the wonder, love and praise of the heavenly realm. Lost in wonder love and praise. 

Yet this is experience of wonder, love and praise is not restricted to the heavenly realm, we can glimpse it on earth as well. When I think of the beauty of a newborn child, the sunset over the fields, standing on the beach looking out across the ocean to the horizon, a couple reuniting at the airport, a football team (Arsenal) finally once again playing some beautiful football… wonder, love, praise. That bring a smile across your face that brightens with joy. 

The Magi seem to have a pretty good handle on wonder, love and praise too. They are Gentiles, foreigners. They are astrologers. They are religious. They are wise. As astrologers they gaze at the night sky – an activity in itself that awakens our sense of wonder, love and praise. Gazing at the night sky it hard not to be awed by the universe, by God’s grandeur, by our small part in this amazing creation that spans far beyond our imaginations. The Magi have spent time getting to know the night sky. The constellations, how they move and change with the seasons. They hold a vast amount of knowledge about the universe, and then they notice a new detail. A new detail that captivates them. A bright star in the sky that has appeared unexpectedly, that they feel compelled to follow. It’s an amazing story really, it leads them – and likely their entourage –  to set out on a seemingly crazy journey to travel far across the dessert, across foreign lands, not knowing where they were going but in the hope that they would find the king of the Jews. They have this sense of calling in their hearts, that this is a journey they must take. And when they do, they find something so amazing. God’s revelation here of Godself here on earth in the infant Jesus. What new depths of wonder, love, and praise they discover there. 

The Magi. On a journey. Lost in wonder love and praise. 

I wonder if theirs is a journey that you relate to? When I meet with baptism families we talk about journeys, and about the Christian journey. Baptism itself being just one step on that journey, something we’ll think more about next week as we celebrate the baptism of Christ. I wonder what moments on that journey of your life fill you with wonder, love and praise. Like the Magi, we too may experience the awe and wonder of God in the night sky, in the beauty of creation, in the worship of the church, in the mystery of communion. It is this awe and wonder that helps to keep us mindful of our relationship with God, of our being part of God’s glorious creation, that reminds us that God is so much bigger than us, than our family, than our church, than our country, than our world, and yet still loves and cares for each and every one of us, and calls each and every one of us to follow Him. 

Yet while we desire this joy, our journeys aren’t always smooth or easy – and indeed if you’ve read TS Elliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’ he imagines their journey too had its challenges along way ‘the weather sharp’, ‘the camel men cursing’ ‘the towns unfriendly.’ Sometimes wonder, love and praise can feel always a step away. It’s where we want to be, but we aren’t quite there yet.

Sometimes we might find ourselves distracted by, or caught up in the experience of Herod, of one who is disturbed, fearful, threatened.  Fear of course can be helpful in limited circumstances – it can highlight to us dangerous situations and encourage a quick response, but longer term it can motivate us to act in some negative ways. It brings about stress, paralyzes us, makes it hard to make clear decisions. The church can also do ‘fear’ well. When facing decline, fear can cause churches to become inward looking, to seek self preservation, to lose sight of the deep love at the heart of the Gospel and the wondrous news we are called to proclaim. 

But the thing with the Magi, is that no matter how tough their journey was they kept their eyes on the stars, on the star. They kept coming back with awe and wonder and to God’s calling on their life, because they knew that that star would lead them to the Messiah, to the source of wonder, love and praise. They knew that despite everything that they faced on their journey, it was worth keeping going, because they were on a journey of discovery with God and that journey surpassed everything.   

So when we face difficulties and challenges in life’s journey, may we be inspired by the Magi, to keep our eyes firmly fixed on God and God’s abundant love for us. May we this year, as individuals and as the church, join with the Magi to become as star gazers, to wonder at the bigger picture, to journey with one another to continue to point to God’s revelation of Godself here on earth, lost in wonder, love and praise.