Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Star is Born

Matthew 2:1-12 (NRSV) In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Today marks the celebration of Epiphany, the festival wherein we celebrate the magi or wise men coming to see and honor Jesus. (Read that passage again carefully: how many were there?)

One of the catchphrases that became popular a few years ago (after "Jesus is the reason for the season") was "Wise men still seek him". It's a catchy phrase, makes a nice bumper sticker and serves as a reminder that looking for Christ is a journey that the faithful must undertake.

However, there is an implication that we, as people, (like the Wise Men), must do all the seeking. It's important to remember that God acted first (in several ways). Jesus coming to earth was an act of God. A star to guide them was an act of God. The scribes understanding of the prophet Micah (5:2) was an act of God. The giving of wisdom, the understanding of travel, the beauty of the night sky... God, God, God.

In the season, our Epiphany must be that God always acts first, last and best. As the Alpha and Omega, God is the initiator of baptism, of wisdom, of life. When we realize that, our light bulb of faith burns more brightly and we're able to seek God more truly and more fully. We're able to recognize the face of Christ of those around us. We're better able to live into our callings, vocations and avocations. We're wise enough to know what we don't know and what we can't do.

Because we can see.

And because we have learned what we are looking for.

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