Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany! This is when we mark the occasion of the Magi from the east looking for the “newborn king of the Jews,” and finding him in the infant Jesus. This feast has a lot to tell us about how to live as Christians, and how to be church.
I think the main thing this feast teaches us is that from the beginning of Jesus’ time on earth, it was evident that the Good News about Him was meant for all. The love of God in Jesus Christ is not limited to a certain group or a certain place, even though we human beings often try to put limits on it. We can’t say to anyone, “This isn’t meant for you.” We just can’t!
This feast calls us to follow the generosity of the Magi. When they find Jesus with Mary and Joseph, they bring their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (The symbolism of these gifts is very well stated in the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings”). We, too, are called to offer our gifts to God. We don’t do it as if we were subjects paying tribute to a greedy ruler. We don’t do so as a bribe to get what we want. We do so in response to the indescribable love God has for us in the coming of the Son of God to be one of us in order to save us!
We are called to follow the hospitality of Mary and Joseph, who welcomed these three strangers into their midst. We are called to be welcoming people. We’re called to be a welcoming church. And no, we are not just to welcome those who are bringing gifts with them. The only thing they may be able to bring is themselves. And we may not be aware at first of what a beautiful gift that may be.
We’re called to be a welcoming church. The Magi didn’t know what they would find when they came to Bethlehem. All they knew was to follow the star. Matthew tells us that when the star “stopped over the place where the child was,” “They were overjoyed at seeing the star.” I think they were overjoyed because the time and the effort of their journey was vindicated. They knew that they weren’t chasing an illusion. They knew they weren’t deluding themselves into believing in something that wasn’t there. When they saw the infant Jesus, they knew this was the One they were looking for.
Could we be church for people in the same way the star was for the Magi? Like the Magi, there are so many people searching. Could we be church in such a way that people would be “overjoyed” to come in, finding out that their search for meaning and hope and peace was not in vain, as they encountered Christ?
May we follow the generosity of the Magi. May we follow the hospitality of Mary and Joseph. May we our lives as individuals and as a church be an “epiphany,” a revelation, of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
Fr. Phil, CP