By Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking,
‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?
For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’
When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;
and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people,
he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They told him, ‘ In Bethlehem of Judea;
for so it has been written by the prophet:…”
On Wisdom and Openness to God’s Mystery – The Gift of Epiphany
The story of the three wise men has been told over and over again. Twelve days after our traditional Christmas, we are again reminded to celebrate the birth of the infant child. This time however God’s revelation breaks free from the popular religious and cultural traditions. This time God chooses to announce the birth of the messiah to the Gentile world – to those not of Judaic heritage. There are no shepherds; no angels singing. This scene is instead draped within a genuine excitement of three magi looking to the sky and trying to understand the significance of a star’s light breaking into the darkness. This is the day we celebrate as Epiphany.
This past week, much of the world celebrated Epiphany, also culturally known as the 12th day of Christmas. My parents would tell us of how, when they were children on the island of Puerto Rico, they would find a little toy in a box with grass underneath their bed on “El Dia de Reyes” or Three Kings Day. Their childhood stories would sit in sharp contrast to the Christmases I have known and enjoyed. Over the years I have a developed a special place for the Feast of Epiphany; in fact, it is the time of the year when I have enjoyed opening up our home to friends. Perhaps this openness comes from the fact that the shopping and wrapping chaos is over – allowing me to truly appreciate the space for deepening the gift of relationships. I, however, would like to believe I have developed this connection to Epiphany primarily because of the simplicity and power of its theological message. God’s hope for humanity cannot be contained by knowledge or by power (ie. King Herod).
In this Matthew narrative, there is no jolly elf making a visit. It is instead the magi who follow the star that leads them to a humble manger. There are no reindeer. There are, instead, camels carrying the wares of those with whom they journey. There are no toys or presents underneath a tree. Instead, there are the gifts of significant value for their time – gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh – given in the presence of a stable. And the ultimate gift of the day is not found at the foot of the throne of the powerful king; in fact, the magi do not return to King Herod with the information requested about the location of the infant. No, the ultimate gift of love is instead found in the humble presence of an infant child Jesus lying in a manger.
I have come to cherish that the magi are wise – not so much because of their knowledge or studies. They are wise because of their spirits. They are wise because their eyes are not simply turned inward toward the world with which they are most comfortable. They are wise because they sincerely seek understanding beyond what they already know. They are wise because their minds are open to what is going on around them in the world. They are wise because their hearts are open to something beyond themselves. It is this openness that allows them to recognize God’s presence and revelation. It is this openness that allows them to proclaim the messiah as part of their journey. This is the essence of their wisdom. Perhaps it is the essence of all wisdom – that openness to what is greater than ourselves with a willingness to embrace the mystery of God.
As we begin a new year, I find it helpful to remember this kind of wisdom. We are often tempted to believe we have all the answers. We are tempted to define the world around us by what makes us feel safe. By doing so, we can easily be in danger of missing God’s ongoing revelations. So I invite us into a season where we continue to look toward the sky, notwithstanding the darkness. I invite us to look for that light beyond our comfort zones. I invite us to seek out new opportunities. I invite us into a season where we continue our journey of faith together, allowing God to reveal God’s self again and again in the face and presence of the apparently ordinary – an infant whose cries and vulnerabilities have brought the possibility of salvation and redemption into the whole of humanity and our world.
This is the essence of Epiphany! And you and I – we have been invited to be part of this grand revelation by embodying God’s love in the places where we find ourselves, believing that we have been called together “for a time such as this.” May 2016 be a year of a passionate corporate witness as we faithfully reaffirm our role as ambassadors – working to stop the senseless violence near and far; working to bring shelter to the homeless; working to embrace the stranger in our midst; working to stop racism and all other isms that tear at the dignity of humanity. May we be wise and living reflections of that Christ light that broke into the darkness of the night more than 2,000 years ago.