by Jaime L. Waters
in America Magazine
Ed. Note: January 6th is the traditional celebration of Epiphany and the end of the 12 days of Christmas. The following reflection first appeared in America for this past Sunday’s reflection.
Today is the feast of the Epiphany, the celebration of the magi following a star to find their way to the newborn Jesus. Their journey and acts of worship are examples of how we should seek and find Christ in our lives. The feast is often interpreted as an invitation and inclusion of Gentiles together with Jews in worshiping Jesus as Messiah, a point that is buttressed in the first and second readings. The narrative also provides examples of how to reckon with corrupt leaders, which are especially relevant during this time of transition of power.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew, we hear King Herod’s concern about Jesus being king of the Jews, interpreting his birth as a potential threat to power. Herod consults the chief priests and scribes for details on what is known of the coming Messiah. The Jewish leaders counsel Herod, paraphrasing texts from Micah and 2 Samuel saying: “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” These passages were about King David and the covenant that promised him an everlasting dynasty.
Matthew interprets these texts in the light of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, making connections between Jesus, David and the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jewish leaders do not cower. They do not placate or indulge Herod with only what he wants to hear. They do not deny a potential threat to Herod’s power; rather, they affirm the significance of a Messiah who would emerge as a leader from Bethlehem. While Herod’s evil intent was likely clear to them, they still opt to speak truth to power…