JOURNEYING TOWARD JESUS
This year my birthday falls on the Feast of the Epiphany, which I will admit the timing of this has me calling myself “Little Miss Christmas” at this point! Who doesn’t want to be a Christmas baby? Birthday-connected in this manner to Little Christmas makes me personally feel deeply and intimately linked to Christmas and the most ultimate core of who we are as Christians in His coming and in the aha revelation of what the wise men experienced.
The Epiphany of the Lord, or as many cultures associate it as, “Little Christmas” has always been one of my most favorite times during the Christmas season. It’s like a Christmas sneak-attack extended celebration of grace and sometimes prompts just one more family gathering, special dinner, and one or two additional gifts. I love a party and I love presents!
Little Christmas has always been a lure for me because there are these three somewhat mysterious figures that are the central characters with Jesus in the Gospel and subsequent celebration of the Epiphany or “revelation” of Christ. The wise men are enlightened, directed, obedient, (yet somewhat sly )and followed the star to the manager to, according to St. Matthew, bring three gifts to Jesus, each having prophetic meaning: gold, the gift for a king; frankincense, the gift for a priest; and myrrh – a burial ointment, a gift for one who would die.
The Gospel for the Epiphany of the Lord on January 8th reads like this:
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way. Matthew 2:1-12
There is a lot in this scripture, but let’s start here: I feel like the wise men are men who can teach us what it means to be in tune with the revelation of heaven (“we saw his star at its rising”) AND what it means to be in fellowship with Jesus (“we have come to do him homage’) not just on Epiphany, but every day of our lives.
Second and profound: Do you know what prostrated means? The dictionary definition of prostrate is “stretched out on the ground in adoration; or in submission; lying flat.”
Have you ever been prostrate before the Lord? Maybe in Eucharistic adoration? Maybe not. This is a form of total and complete surrender, total worship, total recognition of One higher than you. These wise men KNEW who was in their midst, who they journeyed to despite the danger of Herod’s counter plan. The physical body goes down, symbolic of where our personal will needs to be – in submission to God (under the mission of God).
I want to be a child of the Epiphany, for real. When your birthday lands on this day it’s like JACKPOT. It feels like I’m born of Epiphany and I like to claim that all year long because it’s like a secret of Christmas that keeps on delivering a manifold level of grace – while Herod and his gang look elsewhere to find the Divine Child, this trio is with the infant Christ.
Because one of the most famous pilgrimages in scripture made it into Holy Scripture, clearly God wants us to have a take-away here! We should imitate the wise men is what I’m thinking. God came and He came for us but the wise men embody faith in action – they are men who encounter, men who respond and men who when they see, recognize and bow down. I want to be like the three who laid their bodies and wills down so His presence and Divine plan could rise above.
You don’t need to have your birthday fall on Epiphany to be a child of Epiphany. While the rest of the world dims their Christmas lights and most homes clear out the last ornament and are packing up or trashing their tree, it’s important for us to remain in Christmas. Leaving the season now would be like leaving the ballpark before the game is over. Why to avoid the rush, get the train early and miss the final score and a possible underdog game-changing grand slam?
Here’s the now Christmas posture. Epiphany teaches me (us) that our faith is not one-sided. Jesus didn’t come to just to lie in that manger with Mary and Joseph. Jesus came and He invites US to fellowship with him, He invites US to journey toward Him for a life-changing encounter and He invites US to worship. We have to do our part and move our feet toward Him. Consider where Jesus can be found. He can be found in a Eucharistic Holy Hour, He can be found at Mass, He can be found in the Word, He can be found in the Sacramental life of the Church.
Follow the star. Maybe this blog is your current star situation prompting you to remain in Christmas. Epiphany is this Sunday. Let’s prepare. Let’s consider how we will move toward him, no matter what type of distraction, danger, inconvenience or cost. Let’s bring our precious gifts and fall prostate before Him, giving God our total selves. Our journey toward him may be fraught with challenges (Hello HEROD!) but God will always enlighten us when we come to Him and show us the way to go even if we have to depart by another route.
Christmas. Is. Not. Over. Let Christmastide wash over you. Praying for a mighty revelation for you and for me.
Praying for you+