Homily Jan.5, 2014 Feast of the Epiphany.
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.
The wise men followed a star. From ancient times, the stars were looked upon as a guide to everyday life. Even today, those who are trained can navigate the globe by using the stars.....at night. But this star, the star that the wise men followed, was a different star altogether. This star moved contrary to the physical laws of our world. This star was a messenger sent by God to lead certain people to Himself in the Christ Child. There are a few things that we need to contemplate with this gospel account of the Birth of Jesus.
1: The Birth of Jesus was announced to people who were NOT Jews:
From the beginning of history, God had made it known that he was the God of all people, but he did choose Abraham to be his peculiar people, his special people from whom the savior of all people would come.
2: The Birth of Jesus was announced to more than just one person:
There was more than one wise man who came looking for the Christ Child. Tradition says three, but this is more because of the number of gifts they brought more than anything else. In those days, people travelled in caravans comprising of anywhere between dozens to hundreds of people. This was done for both support and for safety.
When we read the stories of Jesus, we see that whenever he was proclaiming his message, he did it to more than one person. Sure there are exceptions, like when Nicodemus came to him at night (for fear of the Jews), but when he did s first miracle, it was at a wedding...lots of people. When he was baptized, there were many witnesses. When he spoke the Sermon on the Mount, again he spoke to the multitudes.
Jesus is to be announced to many people, our faith is a community event, our worship needs to be a community worship. Jesus said himself that where two or three are gathered, he is in their midst.
Yes, of course, there are times when we spend time alone in prayer and in contemplation with our Lord, but when we worship, we share the love of Christ with one another and that is impossible to do by ourselves. The good news is to be shared with as many people as possible.
3: The Birth of Jesus was not announced to the religious community or the nobility of that day.
The wise men were just that, wise. They listened to the signs of the times, they listened to what was being said in the streets, the common sense of the common man. In the other birth narrative, the birth was announced to shepherds tending their flocks. Actually most uncommon men, since shepherds were considered as a sub class in Jewish society! yet God sees the worth of ALL people, regardless of position or class,and actually gives preference to the poor in the world.
4: Finally, gifts were brought to honor the Birth of Jesus:
Gold, frankincense and myrrh were brought as gifts to the Christ Child. Gold, as befitting a King. Frankincense, as befitting a Priest. And Myrrh, as befitting one who would be properly buried as a Priest and King. Some say that it was these gifts, and their monetary value they contained, that sustained the blessed Mother and her Son after the death of Joseph.
We today, like those wise men, have gifts to bring to the Christ Child. For some, our gift is the same gift that the shepherds brought, the gift of being, of their presence in that glorious event. Sometimes, the best gift we can give to each other is the gift of presence to other. To be there, to listen to their story, to support them in their pain, or joy.
I invite all of us to contemplate this. What is it that we bring to the Christ Child? And how do we live our lives so that others see the light of the Star which points to Jesus, Savior of the World.