Today is Epiphany, the day when the church has traditionally celebrated the visit of the wise men (or magi) as told in Matthew 2:1-12. In celebration of that day, I offer up a hymn written by one of my predecessors at Mellor Methodist Church, The Rev. James T. East, who is buried in the grave yard of our church. It is in the Methodist Hymnal, Hymns & Psalms (#128). There are still a few people in my church who can remember him or knew his family, and at our Carol Service at Wilpshire Methodist Church this year, one of them related the story of how Rev. East came to write this hymn.
Rev. East was a man fascinated by the Holy Land and it was his life-long dream to travel there. Having little money, he saved all he could throughout his life and after retiring to Blackburn he finally had enough money to make the trip. He went to the travel agents to make the arrangements, but on return received a message from a friend. His friend was ill and needed an operation or he would die. The friend didn’t have the money (this was in the days before the NHS). Rev. East cancelled his travel plans to Israel and gave the money to save his friend.
Out of that experience, Rev. East wrote this hymn to remind us that God is every where and not just in the Holy Land. Where we are; where we meet God becomes our Holy Land. Where we are called to follow, that is our Bethany. So, on this day we celebrate God’s revelation of himself in Jesus to all the world where we might be or where we may travel as the magi did, here are the words to “Wise Men Seeking Jesus”, by the Rev. James T. East:
Wise men seeking Jesus travelled from afar,
Guided in their journey by a wond’rous star.
But if we desire Him, He is close at hand,
For our native country is our holy land.
Prayerful souls may find Him by our quiet lakes,
Meet Him on our hillsides when the dawning breaks
In our fertile wheat fields where the sheaves are bound,
In our busy markets Jesus may be found.
Fishermen talk with Him by the deep blue sea
As the first disciples did by Galilee.
Every peaceful village in our land might be
Made by Jesus’ Presence like sweet Bethany.
He is more near us if we love Him well,
For He seeketh ever in our hearts to dwell.