Friday, January 19, 2007

Feast of Epiphany

7 January 2007

There is an interesting dichotomy that the Christmas story shows us about whom God chose to share the joy of the coming of the Christ child: Two extremes, the very simple and the very wise.

The very simple we see in the shepherds who were quietly minding their own business, tending their sheep that night. These were people who were looked down upon by the Jewish people of the time. They were often exiled from the regular population, thought of as unclean, even though they often provided the lambs that would be sacrificed at Passover. These are people who have no use for fancy inquiries or interpretations. They have not the time, nor the inclination for such study. They are content to simply take what has been taught them on faith. They trust in God for everything they need.

Then there are the Wise, the Magi from the east (most likely Persia). They are seekers of profound truth. They have dedicated their lives to study and inquiry in various different matters of faith. They are curious to know not simply what God teaches them, but why. They are fascinated by the light of one Star, to plot its course, to follow its trajectory. Yet what makes them wise is that they know that when they reach the star’s destination, they will not be disappointed in what they find. In fact, they will find ultimate satisfaction.

You see, the wise, like the Magi, ask questions and seek answers, yet the one thing they know for certain is that they do not know everything. There is a limit to their knowledge, that if something does not make sense to them, they trust that God has an explanation that is beyond what they can comprehend. They are honest and humble enough to bend the knee in adoration when they find their salvation before them.

Yet even in our day and age, just as there are the simple and the wise, the shepherds and the Magi, there are also the Herods, who think they know, who have their “kingdom” laid out for them, yet feel threatened by the presence of the Christ child. This simple child can prove all their efforts to be in vain. These Herods all along have wasted their time in pursuit of things that will prove meaning less in the final analysis. Herod’s only end was his own wealth and power. He was never willing to use what he had for improvement of the world around him. His life was spent in hoarding the power he possessed by killing those around him. The only limited knowledge he possessed was cunning, not wisdom. He used deceit to lure the Magi into helping him destroy the Christ child. He never succeeded.

The one quality that both the simple and the truly wise have in common is humility. The simple shepherds were humble enough to know that they could never possess the knowledge enough to understand, so they simply relied on faith and were guided by their faith. The Magi, too, were humble enough to know the limits of their ability. It is noble and good to inquire and to seek answers, to investigate and explore. The Magi were humble enough to accept the answers they found and bow in humble adoration before their ultimate destiny: their salvation.

Let us, too, humbly accept and bend the knee in adoration of our true destiny, our salvation, brought to us by God in the humble form of a child in a manger. Whether we simply accept Him on faith or find Him at the end of a profound journey for truth, let us be humble before Christ who shows us the way.

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