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Views from the Vicarage - January 2019

Dear Friends,

I hope that you have had a good Christmas. We now look forward to New Year and Epiphany.

It is Matthew and Luke who tell the story of how the angel instructed that Mary's baby was to be named Jesus - a common name meaning 'saviour'. The Church recalls the naming of Jesus on 1 January - eight days after 25 December. For in Jewish tradition, the male babies were circumcised and named on their eighth day of life. The name Jesus is a transliteration of a name that occurs in several languages. It is of Hebrew origin, 'Yehosua', or Joshua. In Greek, it became 'Ιησούς' (Iesous), and in Latin it became 'Iesus'.The meaning of the name is 'Yahweh delivers' or 'Yahweh rescues', or 'Yahweh is salvation'. No wonder the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:26-33 told Mary to name her baby Jesus: "because He will save His people from their sins".

On 6th January we celebrate Epiphany - the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus. But who were these Wise Men? No one knows for sure. Matthew calls them 'Magi', and that was the name of an ancient caste of a priestly kind from Persia. It wasn't until the third century that they were called kings - by a church father, Tertullian. Another church father, Origin, assumed there were three - to correspond with the gifts given. Later Christian interpretation came to understand gold as a symbol of wisdom and wealth, incense as a symbol of worship and sacrifice, and myrrh as a symbol of healing - and even embalming. Since the 8th century, the Magi have had the names Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior.

As well as the Naming of Jesus and the Epiphany,, we celebrate the conversion of S. Paul 25th Jan. He was a Jew, born as 'Saul' at Tarsus, and brought up by the rabbi Gamaliel as a Pharisee. A devout, fanatical Jew, Saul persecuted the Christians, and watched with satisfaction the first Christian martyrdom, the stoning of Stephen. Then on his way to Damascus Saul had a vision of Christ that stopped him, literally, in his tracks. He realised that this Jesus whom he was persecuting was in fact the Messiah for whom he had longed. Saul changed overnight. He took a new name, Paul. He became a leader in the early Church, and his special calling was as an apostle to the Gentiles.

I wish you a happy New Year and a good 2019.

My Prayers and best wishes,

Fr. Philip Edge - Vicar