FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY (2023)
Psalms 72:1-2, 7-6, 10-13
Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6
How far would we go to follow our dreams? Would we put whatever wealth we had at risk for a glimpse of that which we dreamed of? Would we take on a physically arduous task that would test the limits of our own endurance? Could we ignore the critics who would certainly think us to be foolish for setting out for an unknown future? The Magi in Matthew’s iconic story from his infancy narrative are just that kind of people. We frequently refer to them as ‘kings,’ and our mangers show them with crowns and ornate robes, easily distinguishing them from the simple shepherds (who are lent to our mangers from Luke’s infancy narrative). While their obvious wealth made them live as kings, the magi were influential astrologers, people whose advice was often sought.
It was a common ancient belief that a new star appeared at the time of a ruler’s birth, and the three magi of Matthew’s story are determined to find this “newborn king of the Jews.” After entering Jerusalem they ask King Herod if he knows where the “king” is. The Magi will soon learn that asking a king, Herod, where another king has been born, will stir up paranoid, schizophrenic, and homicidal feelings in someone so unstable like Herod, who only wants to find the newborn king in order that he might kill him.
The Magi cannot be dissuaded from pursuing their dream, and the expensive gifts they brought will be laid at the feet of an infant. An angel will intervene in their lives and warn them not to go back to Herod, where their lives too would have been in danger. Gentiles are the first guests Jesus has, and with little knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures, the Magi never knew how fully they fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that is recounted in our first reading today.
Oh, how I pray the words of our psalm today: “O God, with your judgment endow the king, and with your justice the king’s son; he shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgement. Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more.” The birth witnessed by the three Magi is a genuine “epiphany,” a “manifestation” of God’s entry into our world. The star that guided the Magi is but an infinitesimal speck of the light that became man, and lived among us. In the midst of the darkness that sometimes surrounds us, God’s “light has shone,” and it is meant to make us “radiant,” and our hearts “shall throb and overflow” with delight at what God has done for us, His people.
With the Magi, we today give witness to the importance of this feast of Christmas which we continue to celebrate, even though the world has moved on. Christ is born, and while His ancestry is Jewish, He is born for all peoples. The babe in a manger is the light of the world; He is goodness and truth, He is justice and mercy. The Magi could never have fully appreciated the immensity of that which they sought. We should understand the full importance of Christmas, and, like the Magi, we should go through any lengths necessary to catch a glimpse of the infant king, and allow Him to be born in our hearts.