This day of Epiphany a longing to draw near to God and to one another manifests within and around me. Today we remember and celebrate the Magi, wise seekers who took a risk and a long journey to honor God Incarnate. God, out of God’s own longing for us, became human, enfleshed and vulnerable.
The Star they studied and followed showed the Magi much about the meaning of Jesus’s arrival. One doubts they expected to find an infant/toddler in a stable or other humble dwelling (should they have found a room in Bethlehem). The gifts of gold and frankincense indicate a sense of Jesus as king and lord, but the gift of myrrh seems to show at least one of the magi understood this king and lord may die for the cause of love. Myrrh was used to perfume the body and shroud after death.
As we seek Jesus Christ, we, too, come with gifts. Often our search includes a long and sometimes difficult journey in the ups and downs of the human condition, and most certainly includes a deeper encounter with God in scripture and within our own hearts. We give our possessions, earnings, time and talent to manifest, to live out Jesus’s love in this world. Mostly we give our hearts and our very selves. I invite you to listen to the reading of Timothy Dudley-Smith’s poem, “Visit of the Wise Men,” and ponder their journey to Jesus and their gifts.
Then there is the journey back home, and they cannot go the way they came because they must avoid King Herod and his desire to kill Jesus right then. How daunting to return home via a new route, to have no star for guidance, and to have seemingly left God behind, back there in Bethlehem. As with many people who encounter adult Jesus in his ministry, they are called to leave and go back home or elsewhere to show up as love and light for others. Here, I leave you with a story and a blessing to ponder.
Elizabeth Gilbert tells the story of a bus ride commute home during a rainy evening in Manhattan. Passengers were grumpy, annoyed, unkind, and an altercation seemed about to break out. At that moment, the bus driver got on the intercom said, “Folks, I know you are tired and frustrated with the traffic and the weather.” He then urged them not to take their troubles home to their families that night. Instead, he told them at each stop he would hold out his hand and receive the troubles from each passenger exiting. Once he crossed the Hudson River, he added, he would throw all their troubles in the river. They would be washed away. The driver was true to his word. Laughing, crying or with a simple gesture each one placed their bad moods and worries in the driver’s hand. This bus driver unexpectedly brought the light to many.
As we each celebrate Epiphany, discover the Christ child and bring our gifts, may we be strengthened and encouraged for the journey home. May we know that the light remains with us even when we are scared, uncertain and even tired and grumpy as many are just now. May we carry that light to others. “But we tell you, you will wonder at how you thought the light you had left behind goes with you, spilling from your empty hands, shimmering beneath your homeward feet, illuminating the road with every step you take.” Circle of Grace by Jan Richardson, “Blessing of the Magi.”
I invite you to listen to the entire blessing. With thanks to Maryse Quinn for the poem, blessing and reading.