This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, a day earlier than the traditional date of January 6. These twelve days of the Christmas season (Christmas to Epiphany) is a time of encountering Christ, deeply submersed into the mystery of God himself. The God-man enters time and space, becomes an historical event and, through the subtle humility of poverty, brings an immediate and profound discord to all anyone ever thought they knew about God. And thus we are privileged to enter the mystery.
God, who has reveled more and more of himself to the Israelites as each generation passes, begins to penetrate humanity through the intimacy of babe who has the name above all names (Phil 2:9). Born in the Hebrew tradition, he as God comes as a light to enlighten the gentiles and to give glory to Israel, his people (Lk 2:32).
The glory of Israel is its fulfilling of the many prophecies concerning the foretold Christ: a glory recognized by the Magi because of these prophecies. Drawn by the recognition of his star it is implied that others recognized it too by their arrival and inquiry at the palace. But this was not the case: the prophecies were clearly known (by the “wisdom” of the foreign occupants) but no one other than the Magi recognized the star. Two things can be taken from this; first the star was subtle enough to be seen by those who were paying attention and obscure enough for those who weren’t (therefore it is unlikely to have been something explicit and dramatic like a meteor or comet which everyone would have noticed), and secondly those who were seeking him were not in Israel (though some speculate that they may have had Hebrew linage, which is possible).
One thing is for sure: the triple representation of the Magi as gentiles, as the wise, and as “kings” (or leaders) becomes a contrast for the shepherds who are Hebrew, humble, and outcast. The universality of salvation and the openness of encountering God, no matter the situation or circumstance, becomes present from the first moment of the infants birth.
I find that my encounter with Christ began as a subtle internal recognition of little things that changed and reinforced the orientation of my heart towards God. This may reflect your experience too. This same process is seen in the coming of Christ; here is its conclusion. The encounter with Christ eventually leads to others outside of ourselves and our community through their recognition of the presence of God in their lives. This is personified by the Magi from the East. Once this presence is acknowledged a change is found which demands to be followed: the recognition of the presence of evil in our own lives and beyond which grows to the point of avoidance. The Magi after their meeting with Herod, who represents evil not just here but elsewhere in scripture, return home by another way.
After preparing for the coming of Christ through Advent and now receiving him in the season of Christmas, how are you continuing to be on watch for the ongoing presence of Christ? How do you plan on sharing Christ to others? Have you recognized the presence of evil in your life, from within or without? How do you avoid it? These will be a great way to begin a new year.