Homily – Epiphany – January 2, 2022

   Friends, our official ending to the Christmas Season comes with today’s feast, even though we should go on celebrating through January 6th which actually completes the 12 Days of Christmas.  That having been said, let’s look at just what this feast is all about, whenever we celebrate the coming of the Three Kings.  And as always, the Scriptures show us the way. 

   The prophet Isaiah probably says it best, “Arise, shine, your light has come!”  As with much in Scripture, we are aware that there is more than a surface message here—one that takes us deeper.

   The Magi, another name for the “Three Kings,” saw a star, and evidently, it was more than a usual star that any of us might see in the night sky.  In fact, it was so unusual that it caused them to pick up their lives and move—and it seems, they acted out of urgency.  You will recall that a few weeks back, Mary, our mother and sister, mother of the Messiah, Jesus, moved with the same “urgency” to go and be with her aunt Elizabeth, in their time of mutual waiting.  

  It would seem when the call from God is significant, right—just and true, something within us people of faith, has the strength, the conviction to move, even though we might not know, “the end of the story,” or what lies ahead.  It was that way for me when I said, “yes” to God’s call to ordination within a structure that said, “no!”  No doubt you have experienced like times. 

   It would seem that this was the sense that these Kings had—there was no choice worth considering that was great enough to hold them back from following the “star” that was made visible to them.  And we must remember that beyond the fact that this trio were “kings,” and considered, “wise,” they were also, “astrologers” who studied the night skies and would be more apt than most, to recognize a star that was “different” signifying a likewise significant event on earth.

   But how about us friends?  Do we need to be learned, with some sort of special expertise to follow, “a star,” “a light,” “a call,” to change course and act differently? It would seem not, when we realize that shepherds—poor and simple, left their flocks and followed the light of the star to Bethlehem.  They did, of course, in addition, have a visitation of heavenly beings to augment the sight of the star! 

   So perhaps an obvious question might be to consider what this “star” or any “light,” “new idea,” might mean to our every day lives.  Throughout Advent, I had spoken about being, “on a journey to Bethlehem”—a journey not just to a place, but inward perhaps, to see what we find there, what, in fact motivates our day to day living.  Now that Christmas has arrived and proceeded through many of the 12 days of this special time, my message from the beginning, has been, “to remain at the crib” and not hurry away, but seek out the lessons that we may find there. 

   Even a cursory look at the story from Bethlehem shows us that Mary and Joseph were a poor couple, who were willing to bring new life into their poor existence, believing, trusting that his One, single life had the power to change the lives of everyone.  Do we have such faith in the lives that we lead? 

   For those of us who really believe that a force greater than us—that many of us name, “God,” is part and parcel of our lives, we do have the faith to believe that if we avail ourselves to this entity, God—if you will, we will not walk alone, but will have a force beyond ourselves, to do the good that is ours to do, in this world? 

   And that friends, is really what the coming of the Three Kings signifies—an epiphany, an awakening, a movement—to do something.  And this awakening is not just for us, but for everyone.  We, as Jesus’ followers, have been shown the way.  We have been made to realize, in many ways, that we do not walk alone, that God is always a “constant” in our lives.

   In my prep for this homily, I came upon a piece that Pope Francis did a few years back, where he spoke of the “Star of Bethlehem,” perhaps not being the “brightest star,” but certainly, he said, “It was the most constant star”—it remained visible as long as there were those who needed, “its light.”  Francis went on to say that this is like our relationship with our God.  God is visible and willingly offering a relationship as long as we need and want that relationship. 

   Earlier I mentioned that it is important to remain, “at the crib” to see the lessons that this “time” and “space” provides for our life now, in 2022.  First off, we should not miss the fact that our God chose to come into human existence in a simple and poor way in Jesus of Nazareth, to a poor couple—Mary and Joseph, who literally had to run for their lives early on, just as immigrants are needing to do, in our time, arriving daily at our southern borders. 

   The fact that Jesus came into human existence, as a poor baby and would remain a poor man all his earthly days, “with no place to lay his head,” as prophets foretold, signals the types of people that his earthly life would be advocating for.  We can’t and shouldn’t miss this point, especially if our brother Jesus is who we say we follow! 

   This idea reminds me of a time, several years back, when I was still serving as a chaplain at Winona Health.  I was considering purchasing a crib set for the chapel at Lake Winona Manor that is home to many of Winona’s elderly as well as those recovering from surgery.  The hospital gift shop was offering a crib set that depicted the Holy Family dressed all in gold trimmings and something within me was triggered with how, “all wrong” this depiction was. 

   It may be more comforting to our senses to ignore the poverty with which the Christ Child first appeared, but it would be missing the point entirely.  Even in Franco Zeffirelli’s epic depiction of Jesus of Nazareth, he addresses this fact of the Wise Men coming expecting to find the Child, “in glory” instead of “poverty” and upon seeing him in poverty, they saw, “the rightness” of it!  The Magi saw that the “Holy Child” will be seen, “here” and in other places, “where we do not expect him,” as Pope Francis has said. 

   Francis, in that earlier message said, that if we do not find “the Child” in the here and now, perhaps we are not aware of what we are seeing.  Jesus’ coming among us, from the very beginning, was to “lift up” his future mission, which, as his followers, must be our own—to see to it that the gifts of this world, are for everyone—that was the “rightness” of what the Magi saw,

 in the poor crib-manger and it was the message that they took back to their country—a message that we must see too, and it would seem, with some “urgency,” in the here and now—the poor of this world and work our entire lives—if need be, to alleviate that poverty and want, in the memory of our brother, Jesus.  It’s time now my friends, “to leave the crib” and move into our world, doing the piece that is ours to do!  Amen? Amen!