Today is the celebration of Epiphany. The Greek term epiphany means “showing forth”–something has revealed itself, suddenly. In this case, the epiphany is the showing of the Christ child. We could say that this is the day that the Christ child is seen.
An epiphany is also about the human dimension of receiving an experience. I could say “I had an epiphany” when an idea suddenly came to me, or I framed things in a new way.
In the gospels, we see several ways that Christ is revealed: of course, in his flesh and blood presence but also in the light that the Magi follow, in the gifts they give him, in their epiphany of understanding that he is to be sought out at all, that there is a Light to seek.
The gospels also present a stark contrast between the response of the Magi and Herod. Herod sees the significance and power of Christ and feels threatened; so he seeks to have this threat to his power eradicated. It is ironic because it turns out that Jesus never seeks that kind of political power but only a kingship of Love and Justice.
The other response is of the Magi. They prostrate themselves and give them everything that they have. Although they are wise intellectually, all this falls away in the face of the Wisdom of Love incarnate. The Magi surrender to the Love that is before them. And they are changed by its epiphanal presence, because beforehand they work for Herod, but after they “return another way.” This other way is not only the physical path that they take, but who it is to whom they answer.
We, too, live in a world with our own Herods, people more concerned with power or how they appear to others, what the world thinks of them. But the gospel invites us to make another choice: to lay down before the Christ child all of who we are, all our gifts, all our fears, everything, and to let him transform us in love. Then we, too, will be changed by what we experience in the presence of a Wisdom that defies all worldly wisdom. We, too, might be encouraged to take a different path, not the way of political power, and not the way of Herodian fear, but the way of love of others, a way that only comes after surrender to Love itself.