To celebrate Epiphany is to join the magi in laying before the Christ everything we have to give, beginning with ourselves. And when we do, we too will find our pride empty, our wisdom lacking, and our gifts overshadowed by God’s gifts to us.
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.
At long last we approach the 12th day of Christmas – Epiphany – and the conclusion of our Christmas celebration. Throughout this joyous season, worship at OPCC has been guided by the image of a star. One Star… Many Lights has been our mantra. One star, that is to say, that not only shines on our lives, but shines as well into and through our lives.
This image is particularly appropriate for Epiphany, for the star plays a central role in the story Matthew recounts. It was a star that seduced the Magi, lured them from their home far away, and guided them to Bethlehem. And what better image to represent Epiphany, which is itself a shining forth or revealing? In its light we see clearly for the first time, and the sight we behold changes our lives dramatically, just as it changed the lives of our ancient friends, the Magi.
But here, at long last, the image must change. For when all is said and done it is not a star we seek; one unique star that will continue to guide our steps. It is not a star whose nature is illuminated by the story. It is, rather, something like a star that we seek; something – or someone – whose impact is so very star-like: it illumines, it guides, it warms, it enlivens, it animates, it inspires, and it empowers us to live abundantly and fully.
The expression – choose something like a star – of course derives from the poem of the same name by Robert Frost. In part the poem reads:
O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud…
Some mystery becomes the proud…
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid (calm).
As we gather for worship on Sunday, it will not be a star we seek. Rather, we will seek something like a star; we will seek the One whose luminous nature is reflected meagerly in the star’s light. And I hope you will join us.