I am attending the Province VIII House of Bishops meeting in Los Angeles this week and am writing this article on January 4, the Eleventh Day of Christmas. Tomorrow, obviously, will be the Twelfth Day of Christmas and, by custom, after sunset, the 12th Night of Christmas which is also known as the Eve of the Epiphany (January 6).
Happy Epiphany! May your Epiphanytide be filled with the life-changing and hope-filling light of Christ.
The Epiphany Gospel story comes from Matthew 2:1-12. It is the story of the “wise men” who, inspired and guided by the Christmas Star, journey to Jerusalem (before going to Bethlehem) to pay homage to the newborn king, Jesus. Matthew’s story doesn’t really fit our common Christmas pageant narrative where the wise men arrive directly at the manger. Instead, Matthew’s story is a bit more complicated.
The wise men arrive in Jerusalem where a frightened Herod, after taking counsel with scribes and priests, sends the wise men on a mission to Bethlehem to find the child and to report back to him on the child’s location. And while Herod may have convinced the wise men that his only motivation was to pay homage to the newborn king, we know Herod’s true motivation was to destroy the child.
I wonder: if these were men of such wisdom, did they have any inkling that they were on a mission of malevolence sent by a despotic king to protect his authority, his interests, and his power? Were the wise men aware that they were being played as political pawns?
There is no way to know. However, according to Matthew, we do know that they continued to follow the star and, despite it being consistent with Herod’s mission of malevolence, the star led them to the house (sic) where the child was with his mother, Mary.
They entered the house and one imagines it was full of light: the light of the star; the light of God; the light of love in the mother’s face; the light of life in the baby’s eyes; the light of a home filled with the hope of a new life; the light of joy in the discovery of meaning and purpose at the end of a long journey; perhaps even just the simple light of an oil lamp in an otherwise dark room; so much light. And there must have been something about the light the wise men discovered in that house. It was a light with the power to change everything.
In the presence of Jesus light becomes Holy, Life-changing, Discerning, Hope-filled.
And the wise men left by another road.
The Light of Christ, in fact, all light in the presence of Jesus changes things.
May it change you, too.