[i] this is gold
Lectionary readings: Isaiah 60:1-6 and Matthew 2:1-12
Tou de Iēsou gennēthentos en Bēthleem tēs Ioudaias en hēmerais Hērōdou tou basileōs idou magoi apo anatolōn paregennonto eis Hierosolyma
Now Jesus having been born in Bethlehem of Judea, in [the] days of Herod the king, behold, Magi from [the] east arrived in Jerusalem, (Matthew 2:1)
I don’t often offer you whole sentences in Greek, but there is a striking contrast here that is lost in our English translation: between ‘en hēmerais Hērōdou, in [the] days of Herod,’ and ‘magoi apo anatolōn, Magi from the east.’ Herod’s reign is described as the period from sunrise to sunset. That is, a rising to power, a period of brilliant glory, and a fading to a passing. The Magi are described as arriving from the rising of the sun, from the dawn, the light of a new day. The point is clear, certainly to Herod if not to us: Herod’s days are passing, a new day is dawning, its light already breaking the eastern horizon. Herod will fight it tooth and nail, but you cannot hold back the dawn.
Most English churches lie East-West. I live in a vicarage that lies East-West alongside such a church. In these days at the beginning of a new year, I stand on the half-landing and watch the sun rise over our neighbours’ homes. The sky passing from night into day, from darkest blues through electric blue, purple, vivid pink, gold, silver, palest baby blue. I stand, very still, breathe slowly and deeply, welcome the day.
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