Epiphany of the Lord
Isaiah 60, 1-6 – Psalm 72 – Ephesians 3, 2-6 – Matthew 2, 1-12
January 3, 2016 at Saint Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, FL. & MS Eurodam
This is perhaps the greatest episode in all the Gospels. It makes this the feast of seekers, of wanderers, and wonderers. It speaks to everyone who will not give way to comfortable indifference. It is the story of good over evil, and of the clever outwitting hypocrisy and political intrigue. It comes upon us at a time when we need to be drawn out of consumerism, credit card bills, all the shallowness of “Seasons Greetings”, and festivities of a New Year that may not be much different from the old one. It is a story and feast that leads us back to love and to wisdom.
While these wise men may have questionable historical roots, they still thrill our imaginations and make us wonder about their visit to this child. Their names do not come to us until an 8th century monk names them. They do not become multi-racial for another 8 centuries. None the less, we accept their story laden with symbols and rich theological associations, and a story is often the surest and straight line to the truth. Wonder and excitement are important for every one of us, and their story teaches us some valuable lessons.
Searching for the truth can lead you in to a political minefield. The powerful of this world are always threatened by the truth and by simplicity which always reveals what they would prefer to hide. “Yes men” like the men Herod consults will say anything to stay in favor and avoid the truth. It also reminds us that we are not self-sufficient, and we all need help on our search needing discernment to know right from wrong, a lie from the truth, and light from darkness. At the same time the story teaches us that every nation, every race, every culture seeks the light, and in Christ all will come together. It teaches us that every culture and perhaps every religion has some gift to offer God, and we would be wise to never refuse the gifts of strangers. A multi-cultural society and church bears witness to the inclusiveness we shall later see in Christ’s intent in his mission.
In the end, I suppose, this is all about gifts more than magical wise men. It is about one gift given to us richer and more valuable than gold, frankincense or myrrh: the gift of our love. In a stunning short story by O. Henry called “Gift of the Magi” Jim and Della, husband and wife, decide to give each other special Christmas presents. They are poor, but each has a prized possession. Della’s is her lovely long hair; Jim’s is his pocket watch. Della cuts her hair and sells it in order to buy Jim a platinum chain for his watch. Jim sells his watch so that he can buy a set of pure tortoiseshell combs for Della’s hair. Then comes the moment of “epiphany.” The revelation of the love behind both of their sacrifices that is the most precious gift. He ends the story with the affirmation of the loving wisdom of Jim and Della as gift givers. Matthew proposes to us today that it is often the stranger or outsider who can reveal to us, as individuals and as nations, how and what we should be seeking and how to come home to this truth.