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4th January 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Sermon for Christmas 2 / Epiphany
Isaiah 60. 1-9
John 2. 1-11

Knowing what to give as the right gift... It is quite an art, isn't it?

I hope you all got exactly what you wanted for Christmas.... exactly what you might have chosen for yourself - or maybe not? For giving gifts at Christmas says more about the giver than the recipient perhaps? Or it says something about both.

Take those first Christmas gifts.... the ones we remember at the Epiphany ... the three gifts presented by those wise men.

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. All very well, all very valuable - but not I imagine what the toddler who received them would have chosen for himself? Probably not what Mary his mother, or Joseph his father would have selected... although I am sure the gold came in handy for a poor family like theirs.

The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh tells us more about the wise men than they do the baby/ infant before them. They tell us that here are individuals that have treasure chests from which to bring such items! So here are people of some means.

They tell us that here are people who study - history, the stars, the cultures of other nations... Here are learned men.

They also tell us that here are people who are searching, searching for answers - for answers to age-old mysteries that transcend national, religious and cultural boundaries.

And the answer they find in that stable /cave or house (depending on which version you read!) is bound up somehow in the fate of a small child from a poor family in a dusty backwater of a forgotten and downtrodden people. Here is child with the potential - to be almost anything. But as far as the Magi are concerned, he is to be royal - a king no less; he is to be a priestly figure and he is to bring healing - So yes, the gifts tell us such a lot about both the givers and the one to whom they are presented.

Fast forward, thirty or so years and the child is now a man, on the threshold of starting his life's work - his real work as opposed to the work of a carpenter for which presumably he has been trained. And he is in another setting where gifts are often exchanged. Where gifts are expected. - A Wedding.

How do you choose the right gift to present to a newly married couple? Do you consult their wish list - these days often lodged with a particular shop and accessible on-line? So that the gift you give, you may never have actually seen or touched! Or do you think back to your own experience of setting out on life's path together and think what you valued receiving? Except of course that today most couples have their home assembled long before they think of formalising their relationship with a wedding! Do you resort to giving them cash or a token, so that they can choose something appropriate for themselves?

Again what does that tell us about ourselves? As well as about the Happy Couple?

Jesus is not really ready to declare his hand - to demonstrate his power, his gifts - but it seems (as so often in life ) that other people - specifically his mother - have other ideas. So he is almost forced into giving a gift to the wedding party. And what a gift it is!

Here is something entirely appropriate at a reception - Jesus in effect declares an open bar. He provides wine, just at the point when the resources of the wedding families are exhausted. The wine is running out. The source of joy and celebration is drying up.
But then suddenly God is among them. And where God is, nothing can be dry or meagre.

So the wine is plentiful and of the very best quality. The gift tells us as much, if not more about the giver than about those to whom it is given.
God will provide not merely enough, but abundantly, for we have a god who longs to be generous, who longs to see us flourish and thrive, who longs to make us happy

The wise men, having presented their gifts, threw themselves down and worshipped, then they went home by another route. Changed forever and filled with the joy of knowing Christ's presence.
Jesus, having presented his gifts at the wedding in Cana, went on to perform much greater signs and wonders, changed forever and filled with the joy of knowing he was about God's business - and his disciples believed in him, we are told.

Such a gift is open to us too. Offer your gifts, your knowledge, your wisdom and your searchings. Pour them all out before him. And know that the Christ born in Bethlehem can be born in your heart also. God is here with us.