By now all the Christmas presents have been opened, tried on, returned, and put to otherwise good use. The Christmas cookies are history and are now stored on your waste line. Perhaps even your college age children are getting ready to head back for the spring term. Mom and dad will have their house back to themselves-ah some time together once again!
The feast of the Epiphany in the church year is the official end of the Christmas season as we return to "ordinary time" :the time in the church year when there are not any specific feasts or celebrations. Our next big event is Lent.
The word "Epiphany" as used in our church reference has the meaning of "manifestation" or "making known". We end this Christmas season with the story of the magi and their search for the new born king. I have always found it interesting that we know so little of the early life of Jesus. I have always wondered what he was like as a child; did he have temper tantrums; the terrible 2's; what games did he play? We next hear of Jesus at the Presentation in the Temple at about 12 and then his adult ministry beginning at age 30. Teenage years? When he was 20 something? Did he date and go out with the guys for a few beers? In our Eucharistic prayer # 4 we speak of Jesus as being a person like us in all things but sin. None of the above would be sin. So who was he? Who is this new born king? How did this one person transform the world?
On the first day of his birth we hear of the Magi following the star to seek him out. They risked their lives to find him and even stopping to see Herod on the way to get more accurate directions. We see the fact of the coming of Christ into the world is met in 2 different ways. For Herod the coming of Christ into the world was a threat to his security and understanding of his power. Are there people and institutions in the world and church today who may act like Herod? They may act like the coming of Christ and the personal power Christ brings to people is a threat to the power they have built up over time. "Don't tell me you are following Christ in your life. Just follow the laws I have set down for you", is what Herod told his people. "I am your king and you must follow me", is what Herod told his people. He was prepared to stop any person who did not follow him. To be sure he killed Jesus, Herod had all man boys 2 years old and younger killed. These children have been called the Holy Innocents. Herod was intent on not having anyone confront his authority. Have any of us ever acted that way? Have any in the church ever acted that way?
For the Magi Christ was the goal of their quest. They would risk traveling at night when robbers could be lurking near-by. Their treasures could be stolen. For us the coming of Christ into our lives is both an answer to our longing and a challenge to our familiar ways of understanding life and the way we act. In order to receive God's answer to our longing, we may have to give up many of the answers we may have tried to provide ourselves and many of the promises society tries to give us. Like the Magi in the Gospel today we must be willing to continue on a quest without a clear idea of where it is leading us. What is the direction of JOS? What is our "star?" What is the star you are following? What or who leads you to Christ? Have you found Christ in your life?
As we begin another church year we will be challenged, perhaps like never before, to search and to find the manifestation of Christ within us. We will be challenged to see how Christ is manifested in the lives of those we meet along our journey. Christ is always and everywhere being revealed to us often in hard to recognize ways and places. In the New Testament there are depictions of 46 miracles of Jesus and 26 miracles of the disciples of Jesus. Once we experience Jesus in our life and experience the transformation that new awareness can bring, we like the Magi will turn around and go about our lives in a different way. Our old ways do not serve us any more.
The Magi followed the star to find the Jesus. When they found him they gave all they had as a thanksgiving and acknowledgement of the importance of Jesus in their life.
Like the Magi let us offer Christ the gift of our life; listen and learn from Christ during this coming year; pick up the challenge Christ offers; do not be threatened like Herod; but give thanks and pray for the ability to recognize the Christ within ourselves and those God sends our way.
Living life to the fullest at times brings times of darkness, within ourselves and our family. We do not have to stay in that dark space but can walk in the light of Christ. We celebrate this light at every baptism where the newly baptized are given the lighted candle from the Easter Candle and reminded that this light of Christ will always be burning brightly before us.
Refuse to walk in darkness but always choose to walk in the light. If you walk into the light your darkness and shadow is behind you.