Feast of the Epiphany
January 7, 2017
Christmas is for Everyone
Because of the ice and snow, there was a grand total of sixteen of us who made it to the Christmas Eve late mass, the majority of whom were visitors. We had a lovely, quiet worship experience in the chapel, and it ended with an impromptu singing of Silent Night. It was a special, intimate night.
Among the visitors was a Buddhist and a Mormon. They came together, arrived a bit late, didn’t really know what to do, but were welcomed right in, particularly by Gabe. In my mind, I pictured them, a bit like the Magi, as traveling across the ice and snow all over town and finding the warmth of our light and our worship.
The three travelers from the East in our Gospel story don’t really add anything of consequence to the Christmas story, except to show us that the Christ child came to live and die and rise for every person, no matter who you are or where you come from.
That’s just the point Paul was making to the Ephesians in our second reading.
God Yearns to Reveal Godself to Us
As we come to the end of the Christmas season, the take away message is this: God yearns to reveal Godself to each and every one of us.
This is the essence of Epiphany: God is revealed to the world! But how does God do that? As a child. Whom did the visitors from the East adore on their knees? A child . . . born to a very poor family, who found themselves away from home with no place to sleep, except in a barn with the animals.
Talk about vulnerable! This little family – this holy family – was teetering on the brink of extinction. God’s masterplan of salvation hinged on their survival, and as it seems to me, it could have gone either way. God chose a setting of extraordinary vulnerability to reveal Godself to the world!
At the very least, I believe this says to me, and to each of us, that we cannot fully embrace the meaning of Christmas until we are willing to extend compassionate solidarity to the most vulnerable in our midst. Gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; gifts of toys, electronics, and clothes have their place in our traditions, but quite frankly, lose their luster when we ignore, or merely tokenize, the truly needy in our midst.
Follow the Star
Have you ever heard the adage that for every person who was born, a star was created in the heavens? Our wise men, our astrologers, our magi must have subscribed to this adage, or something similar.
Make no mistake. All indications show them to wealthy, well-educated men. And yet willing to be compelled by the new star in the heavens that, in their minds, was a great light, bringing promise of salvation. They were true seekers, so, in their minds and hearts, they had no choice but to leave the safety and comfort of their homes and follow the star.
These three astrologers represent the seeker in each of us. Have you ever followed a star without really knowing what it means or where it will lead you? Have you ever witnessed such faith in another person? Perhaps your spouse when she or he said yes to you! Perhaps your parent or grandparent or great grandparent when she or he lead your family out of your home country and into this one. Perhaps . . .
Did you know that the Latin root of the word “disaster” means “when things are separated from their stars.” So it’s appropriate today to be reminded that disaster occurs when we separate ourselves from the star of the Christ child.
Like the magi, we seek to align our work in the world with God’s work in the world. And we don’t usually know where that will lead.
By contrast, Herod is not a seeker. He’s a blocker. He doesn’t seem to want to experience what’s out there. He just wants to know about it, filter it through his own carefully constructed, meticulously controlled world, to determine how much of threat it is.
Herod, unfortunately, is a troubling symbol of what we all can potentially be—those who block the revelation of God when we look only for things that affirm what we think we already know. I certainly plead guilty to this on many occasions.
How do you really know if you have an astrologer attitude of seeker or the Herod attitude of blocker? At any given moment, it’s not easy to discern, but a key word arises from our readings from Isaiah this Christmas season that helps, and that is simply: LIGHT.
The people in darkness have seen a great light!
Rise up in splendor! Your light has come.
The glory of the Lord shines upon you.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow.
When we allow the light of God’s presence to shine through to our hearts, then we move from blocker to seeker.
Three concrete personal examples of what I’m talking about. The star of the Christ child was visible to me and moved my heart at our recent GIFT Sunday Session last month:
I know this much. I know that it’s easy for me to slip into being more like Herod than like the wise men. More of a blocker than a seeker. I know I need to hear the stories of Christ encounter, real stories of Christ compassion and solidarity from real people like yourselves in order for me to follow the star.
As this Christmas season comes to a close, I for one, am grateful to the wise seekers in our midst who have shown me the light of Christ.