Sunday, January 2, 2011

Epiphany People

Today we celebrate the Epiphany. As we greet the new year, there is much to be grateful for & much yet to be discovered. The following is a reflection I wrote as a part of the Fairfield University Alumni Advent Reflection Series. Tidings of peace, joy, and discovery to you all.

Matthew 2: 1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage."
When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel."
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
"Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage."
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.

They had traveled miles upon miles following the star. This was something they had dedicated their lives to; they knew the stars like the backs of their hands, their rising, falling, and all that went with those movements. And yet, upon reaching Jerusalem, the magi had no answers and but one question: Where was the newborn king of the Jews?

All that they knew had drawn them to this place and this moment. Seeing the sign - the star - they were drawn forth and they knew what they had to do. The prophets had foretold this moment; their studies confirmed the sign, and their feet had carried them from distant lands.

Finding the place of Christ's birth, the magi were overcome with joy at seeing the star. This is what they had sought and the sight of it confirmed the belief that had drawn them this far. Then, though, they saw the child and his mother and they were overcome again. In this moment, they lay down before the child and did him homage. This was the sign ... He was the sign.

A child. A manger. An evening of Epiphany. God working in the darkness, through the light of a star, to lead these men, and all of humankind, to the realization that the divine was, and is, among us, even if it is in forms that we never would imagine.

This is the epiphany we are called to each day - to discover the divine among us. To ask and be guided by the question, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews?"

That is, how is Christ found in this place?

To discover what it is that we know in our heart of hearts that draws us to our king; to put aside our expectations in order to humble ourselves enough to lie down before our God; and to honestly face what it is that rises within us, be it fear like Herod's or awestruck rejoicing like that of the magi, as we encounter God.

No amount of learning or experience can prepare us for an epiphany of faith. An epiphany can come after we've traveled miles and followed signs or, just as easily, as we make our way through daily life. Either way, we must be open to this moment, embracing and being embraced by God within it; allowing the possibility that the answer to where Christ is in all of this may surprise and startle us.

After all, we are an epiphany people. Constantly asking ourselves how we will choose to return from our encounter with Christ and choosing, as daylight comes and the stars fade, to venture out in hope, faith, and love - a changed people.

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