Today (January 6) is Epiphany.
Among other things, it reminds us that there are 12 days in Christmas,
that Christmas is a “Season” in the Church calendar,
that we ought to give it a whole lot more attention, reflection, and prayer
than just one day!
Matthew 2:1-12 is the standard Gospel lesson for Epiphany—
recounting the visit of the Magi or Wise Men
to the “child” Jesus (now abiding in a “house”).
There’s plenty to preach about each year.
- There’s the significance of the gifts they gave—and the ways they speak of distinct roles of the Christ in our lives: gold (fit for a king), frankincense (fit for a priest), and myrrh (an embalming agent, fit for one who would die).
- There is, as William Barclay points out, the full spectrum of human responses to Jesus: the indifference of the Jerusalem priesthood, the bitter animosity of Herod, and the adoration of the Magi. (Daily Study Bible, p. 21)
But, what has caught my eye and heart — as much as anything — these many years is there in verse 12: “they went home another way [than the way they came].” There it is: the simple truth and profound hope that, in spite of fears and feelings otherwise, we (and others) should not surrender to the fatalism that we are set in our ways! (It brings to mind the words of an Australian friend, recalling a sign he passed in the outback one time: “Choose your rut wisely… You’ll be in it for the next 200 miles!”)
No, the Gospel here seats another sign and truth for us to observe! In the spirit and image of those Wise Men of old (and so many others — like Abraham and Jacob, Moses and Elijah, Paul [on the way home from Damascus]… and John Wesley [on the way home from Aldersgate Square]… and prodigals [like Augustine and John Newton and Johnny Cash and Franklin Graham]): you and I, we, can proceed home another way!
It’s a good word at the start of another New Year—
when so many are making resolutions for life and living:
that we can change,
that we can proceed through this new year
different than the way we entered it!
When it comes to making such resolutions
(potential course corrections), though,
I can’t help but overhear another truth
from those Wise Men of old —
something along the lines that,
when it comes to discerning directions,
there’s the need to “look up”
and to listen for the still, small voice within.
Yes, on the Graceful path back home,
voices (from above and within)
need to be heard and heeded:
What would Jesus have us let go of –
on the way to greater life and living?
And, what would He have us take hold of—
receive from Him—
on the way to the same?