Today we remember the trip that the wise magi took to go to see the Christ child. As I reread the story, I am reminded of a phrase that a former minister at a former church used to say often: “There are only two basic emotions: love and fear.” All of our choices stem from one or the other. Herod hears there is another king, and feels threatened. He chooses the way of fear, a way that leads to violence. The magi take a different path or “another way” home, as the gospel says. Their travels are characterized by seeking, rejoicing, paying homage, and finding alternative routes.
We, too, can follow the Magi and can seek, rejoice, worship, and find new ways home. Like the Magi, we are all pilgrims on a path to find the Lord, and the path that we travel is the path of our lives. By nature, we are seekers, restless for God, as St Augustine writes. We are always on the way to the Lord, since there is always more of God to find, more of a mystery to uncover. But God is not inaccessible.
When God gives of himself to us, we naturally rejoice, for what is more joyful than to find that God is with us? This Christmas season extends beyond one day of Christmas, and even beyond the Sunday feast day of Epiphany. We can all take the gifts given and continue to celebrate all season long. Lent comes early this year, but first, there is time to rejoice, to feast on love.
The Magi also bow down and give homage to the Lord. They prostrate themselves before him because they are in awe. But unlike Herod, the Christ does not wield his power angrily or defensively. Christ comes in the form of a child, gentle and tender, himself in need of care. It’s gentleness and tenderness that inspire awe and love, and leave us feeling humbled.
Last, the Magi come to learn from a dream not to return to Herod, and they are obedient to God’s word. Often in life we think there is only one way to solve a problem or one response that can be had. Surely the Magi must have been accustomed to their known routes. But instead they were willing to try out unknown paths, and find another way, in order to avoid violence and to protect the Christ child. We, too, in our relationships, can creatively seek new ways for being with one another, with God’s assistance.
This Epiphany, let’s seek, worship, rejoice, and find those new and life-giving ways to be with in community and communion one another.
*Lorenzo Monaco’s Adoration of the Magi