Two Approaches, Two Replies

A young humble mother, a strong silent husband, shepherds and animals giving way to three men, varied in age and race, bearing gifts and paying homage to a new born child wrapped in rags and lying in a crib shabbily constructed with nothing but straw as padding.  The scene has become etched in our minds. 

The Gospel puts before us today that vivid scene of the three men, reminding us that it is not yet time to pack away the importance of God’s gift of breaking into our world to be like us, taking on our human nature so that we have a chance of immortality.

The Magi, astrologers by trade, who in the course of their work saw a star of such magnificence that it could only mean that something was about to change forever. The three wise men unsure of exactly what that future would bring, were motivated to begin their long journey, carrying with them in their coffers, gifts and in their hearts an anticipation of something extraordinary was about to happen. In the midst of darkness, they followed the great light seeking after wisdom and  truth– the ultimate desire of every human being.

In stark contrast, Herod for many years ignored the Light becoming blind to the Light itself.  So handicapped was Herod he could only see the darkness of his own  self-concern, and self- centeredness.  For Herod, the new born King is a threat, a great wind that has the possibility of extinguishing his dull flame that he covets beyond all else. 

Two distinct approaches, two distinct replies: For the wise men who recognized the star illuminated by God, opened their hearts and minds to the possibility that the Messiah could possibly be hidden in the flesh of a new born babe.  Never before seen, never before comprehended– Goodness itself is hidden in the defenseless child who is unable to care for himself.  

For Herod however, who despised humanity, despised everything and everyone but himself, acknowledged the Light as a threat to himself. His only solution was to kill it. 

Herod’s approach and response should sound very familiar to you, for Herod was following the father of all darkness instead of the Light of God. Those who live in falsehoods do everything possible to extinguish the Truth,

And so, history marches on, marches on so quickly that it is already the year 2022.  It is now our turn to experience the manifestation of God in our lives, the epiphany of God in our world.  At times, it takes great faith to see God; to see God hidden.  At other times it takes great faith to think that the King of the universe can be found in the depths of poverty and filth.  But He is there, and it is there we willingly offer our gifts to him.

The star, the Light of the world leads us, beckons us to look beyond the ordinary, to look past our predisposed notions, and to gaze into the poverty for which the Lord of the universe was born.  But it isn’t only poverty where our Lord can be found. 

We may look to the business person who goes out of his way to be ethical in his dealings with clients; we may look to the doctor who shows genuine compassion and concern for her patients; we may look to the child who is the bearer of innocence and honesty.  We see individuals losing their livelihoods because of their conviction to protect life.  All of these and more are stars shining in the east; all of these beckon us to search for the wisdom and truth; and all of these are ways in which we follow the Light of Christ in the world.    

For most of us, I would venture to say, the danger that lurks in our lives is not that we would follow Herod’s lead, in actively and maliciously seeking to eliminate Christ in the world.  Rather, the danger for most of us is that we become blind or too occupied to see the bright star shine in our eastern sky. 

After celebrating the birth of Christ, when all of the decorations are down and all of the parties are over, we settle back into our regular routines. 

Hopefully, we can shed our old routines and find ourselves this coming year searching for the star with the belief  God is right in front of us; in a form we would not expect.  Will this year find us following our own dim and unimpressive ember, of old or will the new year bring a new set of eyes?

As this Christmas season comes to a close, the danger we should fear is that the spirit of generosity, love and gratitude which was a bright light during this holy time gets packed away with our Nativity scenes. 

We should be reminded that as we begin to remember to write the date 2022 on our checks, we should not forget what we celebrated at the end of 2021.  Today’s Feast of the Epiphany steers us back into the ordinary routines of our lives but hopefully on new routes, routes which avoid the pitfalls that may leave us unchanged, unmoved and indifferent.

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