On this wonderful Feast of the Epiphany, we are already beginning to accelerate into the New Year. I remember the culture shock of my first Christmas in Los Angeles a quarter century ago. Christmas was all over on the 26th. I remember the traumatic shock of seeing Christmas trees in the trash on the day after Christmas. It was so strange to me because all my life growing up in the West of Ireland Christmas began with Christmas Eve, and continued for the “Twelve Days” and it concluded on January 6th. To see a Christmas Tree in the trash on the Second Day of Christmas was more shocking than if my “true love” actually sent me “two turtledoves!”
But this Feast of the Epiphany is a great reminder to us to “make haste slowly” into the coming year. It’s as though despite the world moving on, our gospel invites us to a completely different change of pace. It reminds us of truths that are deeper and more enduring than any the panicked rat-race might suggest.
The primary narrative to mark this Feast is that of Matthew’s telling of the Magi arriving in Jerusalem from the East, as they search for the “newborn king of the Jews.” I confess, I love the idea that so quickly after our celebration of the birth of Jesus, God-Come-to-Us, we now have a story that reminds us of the importance of our coming in search of God. It’s as though the Church’s tradition, passed down through the ages, holds a profound wisdom for us that we surely need as we enter into a New Year.
Matthew’s narrative invites us to consider why and where it is that we might seek the divine in our lives? While Christmas might well be understood by many as a celebration that focuses on children, this feast of the Epiphany is one that moves the focus to deliberately embrace adults. Where do we look for the epiphany of God in our lives? Where do we look to see the “manifestation” of God in our lives? While Christmas is all about proclaiming that God is present in the world, this Feast is about our seeking out, recognizing, and responding to that presence. While Christmas is about God coming to meet us, Epiphany is more about our going to meet God.
The very image of the Magi traveling “from the East” conjures up the idea of a journey that takes time. In other words, our seeking out and finding, or recognizing, the Divine Presence in our lives doesn’t happen at the flip of a “life-switch.” Neither does it often happen very quickly. We have to be ready for a journey. This search, or quest, calls us to be properly equipped and ready to encounter all manner of distraction. It’s important for us to keep our eyes to the heavens and to the “star” that guides us on our life’s journey. If we lose our bearings, if we keep our head directed only toward the immediacy of our days, then we will slowly, but surely, forget the very fulfilment we tell ourselves we seek.
This has always been a life-task with its own challenges and struggles. I think that in more recent years, as lives have become busier and busier, it can be even more of a challenge to keep our eyes fixed on what’s really important to us in life and to our fulfillment. Added to this, our use of technology and devices have also increasingly consumed our time and energy. As a result, I think we can all face increasing temptations to “settle for” things that suggest fulfillment rather than engage in the work of seeking out true fulfillment, both for ourselves as well as for those who are nearest and dearest to us.
Perhaps in this New Year we might make a resolution to be a little more intentional in our efforts to keep what’s most important to our well-being and that of our families? Perhaps we might pray for the grace of insight and resolve, that we might discern better between what really is important in our lives and what we only think to be important? May all who undertake the work and the journey of digging deeper and stretching wider, be guided by the light of the star that shone for the Magi. May our quest to find “fullness of life” meet with increased satisfaction in the coming year.