Whew! It’s over–this season of running and shopping and baking and wrapping and giving and getting and dressing and partying and, oh yeah, worshipping the Christ who has come! Now we can go back to normal. Whew! It’s over! But what is the deal with all this light around? Really? So what was the point? Truth be told, as Christmas is the celebration of God’s coming, Epiphany is the manifestation of our going. Epiphany is the beginning of the journey. So, in other words, don’t get too comfortable! There is work to do!
This season of Epiphany probably gets sort of glossed over. I don’t know, maybe we’re tired. Maybe we’ve eaten too much or run too much or just too much-ed. Or maybe we just don’t understand what it’s about. Epiphany is about making Jesus real, making the Christ child part of your life. It is about doing beginning to travel down a road that you’ve never traveled before.
We know the story of the Wisemen, those learned ones who came to pay homage to the new king. I suppose it was just a politically correct fulfillment of accepted etiquette. There was a new king in town and they would greet him and give him the proper gifts and perhaps he would remember them in the future. (And in the meantime, perhaps the press would treat them kindly in this politically volatile season!) It was, after all, the proper and the smart thing to do. But instead, something happened. Perhaps it was the star; perhaps it was the king; perhaps it was some sort of divine inspiration. But, whatever it was, these wandering souls got it. They saw a pathway that was different than the one that they were on, they saw where God was calling them to go. And so they went home by another way.
Many of you have heard the Henry Van Dyke story of “The Other Wise Man”. It is the story of a magi named Artaban, who waited impatiently for the star to shine so that he could travel with the other magi to see the new king. In fact, he had sold all of his possessions and bought three jewels—a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl—to give to the new baby king. And, then, he finally saw what he had been waiting for as the dark eastern sky was filled with light. He hurried to join his friends so that he could meet the king. But on the way, he came upon the form of a man lying on the side of the road, motionless and dying. He knew that if he stayed to help the dying stranger, he would miss meeting the Messiah. So, with a heavy heart, he stayed and cared for the man until his strength returned. And in return, the man, a Jew, blessed his travel to Bethlehem, where he told him the king had actually been born. So, left behind by the others, Artaban was forced to sell the sapphire, buy a train of camels, and provisions for the journey.
But he arrived there three days after the others had departed. He entered a cottage and found a young mother singing her baby to sleep. And quietly, the woman told him that the new king and his family had fled secretly in the night. Suddenly there was a noise outside as Herod’s soldiers came for the child. Artaban went to the doorway and met the soldiers, telling them that he was alone in the house. When the soldier did not believe him, he reached in his pocket and pulled out his ruby and gave it to him. The soldiers went away. The woman blessed him.
Artaban spent his life searching for the king. In all this world of anguish, he found many to help, but no one to worship. He fed the hungry, clothed the naked, healed the sick, and comforted those in despair. Thirty-three years later, he came for the last time to Jerusalem and was met with a flurry of activity as the city prepared to crucify Jesus of Nazareth. On hearing this, Artaban knew that this was what he was called to do. The pearl, the last of his riches, could be offered as ransom for the king’s life. It was then that a young slave girl was dragged through the streets and threw herself at Artaban’s feet. Save me, she begged, they are going to kill me. He sadly took the pearl from his pocket. It gleamed with radiance as he handed it to the girl so that she could buy her life. The earth began to shake around him; the sky darkened; and it was then that a heavy tile hit Artaban on the head. As he lay there, the slave girl bent over him to try to hear what he was saying. It was then that she heard a faint voice from above—“verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.” A calm radiance came over Artaban’s face and he breathed one last breath. His journey had ended. His treasures were accepted. He had met the King many, many times.
Well, obviously, this is fiction. There’s no basis to it. It’s not Scriptural. But the point is that we are the other wisemen. We are the ones called to the work. We are the ones that will meet the King. Maybe we will see it to fruition; more than likely, we will not. The point is that it’s not about the end-result. It’s about the journey. It’s about making the Christ-child real in your lives. It’s about meeting the King. But more than that, it’s about getting it! It’s about making it real. It’s about letting the Light illumine your life.
We are called to follow, to walk in the way illumined by the Light.
Let us follow the Light as it guides us on our journey.
Let us follow the Light as it leads us to Life.
So, in this season of Epiphany, make the newborn Christ real in your life! There is work to be done!
Grace and Peace,