This Sunday, January 4, is the eleventh day of Christmas, but it is also the Sunday closest to Epiphany, so our Sanctuary Worship will focus on Epiphany, the day when we remember the journey of the wise men, or magi, to find Jesus. The magi were Zoroastrian priests, scholars and astrologers — most likely from Persia. They saw a new, bright light in the sky, and it led them on their journey to find the Christ child. When they found him, they presented highly symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then they went home by another way, so as not to alert King Herod of the child’s location, since Herod meant to do the Christ child harm.
Christian tradition has often looked at our own journeys of faith as analogous to this journey of the magi: We are seekers after deeper truth and understanding. We experience our faith more as a journey and less as a destination. The journey is neither short nor easy. We have our own gifts to bring as we seek and find Christ. Once we have found him and have brought our gifts, we are different — and we go home a different way. Our journey changes after that point.
Could there be a better word than Epiphany to describe this celebration? Webster defines “epiphany” as a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way. We celebrate Epiphany every year to recognize and remember that the faith journey to new, deeper, and clearer understanding is not a once-and-for-all journey. Rather, as we grow in our understanding of Jesus, ourselves, others — and the relationships among all these aspects of our lives and faith, we have many epiphanies, all along the way. As long as we are open and seeking, there will be many moments throughout our lifetimes in which we see things in a new or very clear way. We can recognize these times because these are the moments when our journey shifts — and we end up going home by another way.
James Taylor puts this poetically in one of his songs that Tom McDermott will sing in our sanctuary worship on Sunday. Here are some of the words:
Those magic men the Magi, some people call them wise
Or Oriental, even kings, well anyway, those guys.
They visited with Jesus. They sure enjoyed their stay.
Then, warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme,
They went home by another way.
Yes they went home by another way, home by another way
Maybe me and you can be wise guys, too, and go home by another way
As you continue or begin your journey of faith in this new year, I invite you to look for your own epiphanies — those moments in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way. May we all be open to receive them and allow them to transform our lives.
Grace and Peace,