Epiphany of the Lord 2021
The Magi and their long physical journey to find the newborn child in Bethlehem … the trek connects so intimately to the spiritual journey we all take, in order to discover that innocent child and his sacred effects in our lives. It is a never-ending search.
The hidden life and the public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth continue to teach us and stretch us and invite us to open our eyes and ears and hearts ever wider. A sign of our entry into the journey is that widening. And that wider sense of vision is usually accompanied by epiphany moments in our self-understanding. That deepened understanding requires that we act.
Remember that the intent of the wise wanderers is to pay homage to the newborn child. That caused fright for King Herod. He has reason to be threatened by wise persons paying homage to another leader. The Magi were warned in a dream to return home by a different route. That’s probably the part of the Epiphany story that stays most clearly with me.
One of the Christmas cards I held on to for many years said something like, We have seen the Christ, and like the wise ones of old we can no longer go home by the familiar route. A new way is ours, today. To truly encounter the Lord is to watch our lives being transformed.
That encounter demands attentiveness from us. Once we have our eyes open, we have to look at our lives and the world with eyes of faith and a deeper compassion.
The great prophet Isaiah reminds us today, your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. I like the two imperatives that accompany those words: arise and shine. That’s a confident stance in the face of the darkness of our world.
How tempting it is in this dark time to just throw up our hands and give up. To arise and shine is an act of defiance. It is as simple as praying for the grace to view the world, pandemic included, through the perspective of God. God is inviting us to grow in this time.
The Magi came to Bethlehem with meaningful gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Epiphany is a time for us to pay our own homage to the newborn baby. We have gifts to carry. I recall once having a nativity scene containing extra characters, such as local bakers and merchants. Each was portrayed offering gifts tied in to their crafts.
I used to look at the pieces and ask myself what gift I would carry to the manger. I’ve had the same thoughts when I see a Facebook post showing an image of three women carrying practical gifts to the child and his mother: diapers, food, etc.
The caption read something to the effect of after the three wise men left, the three wiser women came carrying their gifts. What is the gift you carry?