Rev. Andrew Cunnington
5th January 2014
Space to see Earth Reflected in Heaven… and Heaven Reflected in Earth

In my minds eye, I see camels and kings clopping through the streets of Redhill.

They are looking for lodging for the night on the long way to Bethlehem.

And it’s turning out to be some detour!

They wonder if the Vicarage in Ridgeway Road might be a safe bet for accommodation and they pull in on the front drive, causing mayhem, bumping into the parked cars and knocking our litter bins flying.

Pleased to welcome them, we show them to the best room in the house, with a wonderful view over our town with everything twinkling at night.

But within minutes they are stomping down our stairs with looks of regret in their eyes.

“Truly sorry” they say “but we can’t stay here, not for one moment, it’s the view from the room you gave us, it’s so full of lights we would lose sight of the one light that has become our guide”

So off they clopped towards Reigate, hoping it would be better there, even though I told them it wouldn’t, and that it would in fact be worse.

It’s true though, if you look down on Redhill at night it is so full of lights, that you’d miss the one true light, if that’s what you were looking for.

Over Redhill, there are street lamps, blue, yellow and orange. There are big blocks of light from stairwells in flats, kept on all night for “elf and safety”, there are neon signs for the Ford dealers and the BP garage. Helicopters spin overhead. Warning lights flashing, and planes for Gatwick go round and round before they are called in to land.

Look one way and the M25 shines brightly, look the other and the airport landing lights dominate the horizon. Look straight ahead and the 1.25am Southern Service to London Victoria sits shivering on the rails waiting in vain for the lights to change.

So full of lights, so that if you were looking for one light to guide you, it would be almost certain that you’d miss it.

Now there is something you should know about the way people saw things in Jesus’s day.

They saw life as a whole. They did not see a separation between the heavens and the earth. They were as one to them back then, so if something important is going to happen on earth you would expect to see a reflection of that event up in the heavens.

These Wise Men were not the sort of astrologers who might have a regular column in the “Daily Mail” or a little booth on Brighton Pier. They were indeed wise men, looking for meaning and unity of meaning in whatever happened.

Their vision of the night sky would not have been cluttered like ours is. They would not have seen a dividing line between getting on with things here on the ground, and looking for inspiration up in the sky. It was all one and the same.

This feast of the Epiphany beautifully sub titled “ the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles”s challenges us to ask the vision we have for God has become crowded out by competing claims.

There are three groups of people in our Gospel reading that are worthy of note. Our noble kings, Herod and his henchmen and the religious leaders of the day, and look who comes out worst!

The wise men have an uncluttered vision and proceed to the stable and when they get there, we read, wonderfully that they are “overwhelmed with joy”

When Herod hears of the imminence of the new born king, he actually is part of the way towards salvation because he accepts that the presence of the star is significant, but he is filled with rage at the prospect of being unseated, hence his scheming plot emerges.

And Herod summons the religious leaders of the day, the chief priests and the scribes, the ones who knew their scriptures backwards, the ones who, notionally anyway, are looking for a Messiah.

They hear about the star and its direction. They read to him from the scriptures that Bethlehem would be the birth place of the Messiah according to Micah’s prophecy. You might have expected that they would have noted all this with mounting excitement. That they would have wanted to hitch a lift on those camels, or at least run singing and dancing through the streets waking everyone up as they went, but they do nothing.

To coin a phrase “am I bothered”, no I’m not. They did nothing and it is their failure at this point to recognise what was happening, that set the course for all that was to unfold.

Their vision was crowded out with their own personal “to do” lists. Their vision suited them for a comfortable, well ordered life, they didn’t want God coming into things and mucking around with the structures. No Epiphany there, more like Lent all year round!

So amidst the New Year resolutions and hopes for 2014, one challenge! Keep your night sky clear.

Don’t let it be a mirror of Redhill’s night time horizons, a tangled web of man’s preoccupation with man. Make space in your skyline for the same star that led the wise men, and although that may mean you set off into the next twelve months not knowing where you are going, travel with the hope of joy in your heart because you are stepping out in faith.

I love the notion of what happens on earth and what happens in the heavens as being a reflection of each other’s experiences.

Because I think that’s what Jesus does and what Jesus is. He comes to like a star to reflect the ways of heaven down here upon the earth, and by his incarnation he reflects the ways of earth back up to heaven.

That’s what he came for and that’s the heart of our rejoicing upon this day.

The unity of heaven and earth in this child redeemer. Shown by stars in the sky and the strange gathering of shepherds and wise men at our manger scene.

Not to be pretty and enchanting, but this is how it is with God and his world.

MATTHEW 2: 1-11