Epiphany is one of my favourite Sundays and it is officially the 12th day of Christmas. The readings are spectacular. Isaiah returns after a bit of a break: Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!…Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you. We are a people blessed beyond our imaginations and are asked to arise and shine our lights for all the world to see. This is the time of rejoicing.
The Gospel of Matthew’s account of the Magi has long held readers captive to this mysterious tale. Rich in intrigue and deceit, joy and wonder, and wisdom to feed the soul this story is worth reading again and again. Who are these wise men that appear on Herod’s doorstep, asking for the Child? Who is this King that invokes such terror in Herod and all of Jerusalem? What is this star, even, that shines so brightly that all are fixated on it? So many questions arise from this tale.
First of all this story is about seekers–people who long for something outside of themselves, something that will fulfill them on the deepest of levels. They have been vigilant, watching the sky for a sign, and lo, their time has been rewarded. This star bursts into the heavens and catches the attention of those who are looking. Perhaps that Light is God’s own heart, bursting with Love for the Beloved Babe, shining in the darkness so that all will know that the Light cannot be defeated.
Why do we fear the Light? What is it that we are terrified that it may reveal? Herod is afraid of lose his power to this new King, and attempts to spin a web of deceit so that he may destroy the competition. Can we let go of all of our fears as this New Year begins so that we may be filled with the Light that longs for us to be free? Can we celebrate others while knowing we are still enough? Will you choose to be a seeker of the Light? Will you follow the star that is beckoning?
The Magi set out, following the star and when they realize that it had stopped–without even seeing to whom it had led them–they were overwhelmed with joy. They simply knew they had arrived at the spot to where they had been called and were filled with incredible joy. They did not know exactly what it meant–and they would soon be in for a surprise as to who this King was–but nonetheless, they rejoiced. Such gratitude! Do we embrace the moment of our journey without comprehending the outcome or do we despair that it may not be all that we had hoped it would be? No wonder we call them wise men.
Entering the house, they worship the Child and offer Him their gifts. They do not ask for anything it seems–they gently give of what they have brought and leave. They give their very best to this Stranger who has been their Guide and Destination. They offer praise and honour. Then they depart.
The thing is though, they leave different than how they arrived. They choose not to return to Herod who they might have honoured earlier in the story but now have encountered the Truth and so walk a different road. That is the amazing reality about encountering Christ. You are never the same. Your dreams speak to you. Your heart is restless. You no longer are comfortable walking in the same way you did. You always long for the Light.
When I left for Africa four years ago, my pastor posted on my blog these words: “Follow that star and who knows what road will take you back!!” I have returned to those words on occasion, when I want to let my light shine, when I am afraid of the journey, or when the calling in my heart seem bigger than I can imagine. They are words of hope to me. I long to follow the star all of my days, to let its Light shine on my path, even if it is simply one step at a time, and to reflect it back to those who sit in darkness. This is a New Year with a clean slate. I do not know where this road will take me; I do know though that deep down I trust God to lead me and to overwhelm me with Joy. I can only hope that I will remember to fall on my knees and pay God homage, to offer my best gifts, and to walk with as much courage as I can muster upon a road I had not considered traveling, and to shine as brightly as I can in thanksgiving for it all.