Last month in the space of three days I had two awkward moments when the person behind the counter handed me back my money. Well, in each case, a coin. One occasion I tried to deposit at the bank 1EURO instead of £1. On the other occasion the fellow at the supermarket handed back to me a very grimy 50p. I didn’t understand why at first and he said that it wasn’t ‘British’. I looked at it – could make out the portrait of the Queen but the obverse side was new to me. I replaced the coin – paid – and went outside in the sunlight and looked at the coin again. This time I could see that it had printed around Her Majesty’s portrait ‘Isle of Man Elizabeth II 1997’.
We’ve been using money – coins – since about the 7th century BC. Coins seem to have originated in ancient Turkey and then quickly became incorporated into ancient Greece. (And the rest, as they say, is history!) They were valuable in terms of their metal content (substances we decided were valuable), as means of exchange, and as newspapers telling people things important to the minting authority – perhaps the identity of an emperor, a ruler, or even a deity; or a significant person (eg. relatives of the powerful); or of significant events such as military victories or the importance of a city. There was nothing standard about all these coins. There were different weights, different values and percentages of metals so that there were coins that were more local and coins that were more international. Today coins are probably the most accessible artefact of the ancient world.
Then, as now, currency only has value if you accept the minting authority’s authority. So here in the UK, it is the Bank of England who determines legal tender. Thus as much as I might have protested that both coins are still coins, still have metal, still can be used as means of exchange if someone wanted to accept them, their name makes them not exactly worthless but pretty useless if they are not legal tender here.
We don’t know how the gold – or how much gold – was given to Mary and Joseph. We assume that it helped them in the flight to Egypt. But this gold isn’t so much a means of exchange but a trumpet, a pointer – revealing something about the recipient. The same applies to the frankincense and myrrh – both valuable in themselves – but also pointers to the recipient. These Magi – Gentiles – gave gifts to little Jesus and worshipped him.
Whom should you worship?
Just as there are many currencies around the world so there are many deities, divinities, gods around the world. For some people wealth is almost a religion. Are they all the same? That’s a big question!
The Festival of The Epiphany continues from Christmas and declares that God is manifest – revealed – here in the person of Jesus. He is King, Priest, and Sacrifice. Oh and he’s also God among us – for all of us no matter our nationalities, languages or the currency in our pockets. That is a specific and unique claim. Jesus is either telling the truth or he’s lying. His followers are either telling the truth or they’re delusional.
It really does boil down to ‘When it comes to God, is it Jesus or some other god?’ Christmas, The Epiphany, Good Friday and Easter Sunday all point to Jesus. And I say that’s something you can bank on! ☺ (You knew I’d say something like that, didn’t you?!) G