We call today Epiphany.
The definition of epiphany is:
“A sudden, intuitive perception or insight
into the reality or essential meaning of something,
usually initiated by some simple, homely,
or commonplace occurrence or experience”
Today we hear the story about
wise men from the East who came to Jerusalem
looking for Jesus so they could honor him
They saw a simple star and somehow they
knew that the Messiah had been born.
They had an Epiphany.
We don’t know too much about these guys.
The story doesn’t mention their names,
the names Caspar, Balthazar and Melchoir
were made up in the 6th century.
We don’t know that they were kings,
that was made up in the 3rd.
It doesn’t say anything about robes and camels
that’s all from someone’s imagination.
We don’t even know that there were three of them,
it just makes it clear that there were more than one.
People have supposed these wise men to be kings,
astrologers, magicians, Zoroastrian priests.
People from China, Iran, India and Syria
have claimed them as coming from their countries.
The story of these people takes up just 12
little verses in Matthew’s gospel,
but it has created a lot of folklore and inspired
a lot of stories throughout the ages.
Probably because at its core, it’s so interesting.
At its core, it’s a story about people who followed a star,
a hope, an inspiration.
They were obviously people who were willing to take risk
and engage in a little bit of whimsy.
It’s the story about people who had the courage
to follow an unsure and uncertain thing with certainty.
It’s the story of people who were willing to follow
God’s lead wherever it took them.
Those wise men.
They left their homes, their comfort,
the things that they knew, they followed the star.
So, since they heard this call from God, they were sure
of course, they were positive in what they were doing.
They knew the whole time they were doing the right thing.
They always felt confident and secure, right?
Probably not, but we don’t get to see those parts.
T.S. Eliot, wrote a really wonderful
poem about the three Wise Men, called
The Journey of the Magi. It’s been one of my favorites
since college, I’ve always wanted to read it on Epiphany,
but I never have, but since I’m leaving I can indulge.
I’ll just read you the first part of it.
You can read the rest on your own.
The Journey of the Magi
“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
I always loved this because it fills in the rest of the story
with a reality, with the difficulty and the
un-sureness of the trip they took.
The feeling along the way that maybe the journey was silly to take.
The doubt that comes before the confidence.
You should read the rest of the poem.
I’m kind of following a star myself these days
Leaving everything that’s comfortable and secure
and uprooting my family and going into somewhere
unknown that I feel God’s call to.
And I have to tell you I do not feel confident.
I don’t feel sure and positive that I’ve made the right choice.
I’m not positive that I heard that call the right way.
Like in the poem, I can hear
“the voices are singing in my ears that this all was folly.”
But God has never promised us sure things,
or unwavering confidence, or a lack of doubt.
God just promises to be with us until the end of the age.
Now, not everyone needs to follow a star into public ministry,
Or move across the country, that’s just my star.
But everyone is invited to follow some sort of star.
Or maybe you’ve already followed your assortment of stars.
Maybe your star is staying in the same
place for the first time in your life,
and figure things out where you are.
Maybe your star is rediscovering your faith.
Or maybe it’s helping another person you wouldn’t normally help.
Maybe your star is a career choice, or a hobby, or a change in life.
Maybe it’s going to a protest, or a meeting,
or writing a letter, or running for office.
Maybe it’s forgiving a friend, or contacting a neighbor,
or reuniting with a family member.
We are all called to do something that leads us on
a different path, a different direction a different way.
None of those things are a sure thing.
All of those things contain risk and vulnerability.
All of those things are a bit of folly.
All of us feel a sense of doubt when we’re doing
something different or uncharacteristic.
But I do think that God needs people who will
follow those stars wherever they might go.
God needs people who are willing to follow
uncertain things with certainty and commitment.
Of course, God always loves us if we decide not
to go to the weird and strange places.
But I think God sometimes wants to lead us
into the unknown and the strange.
The story of Jesus is a story of God’s light coming to earth.
But the light of Jesus needs to be shared with others,
its purpose is to inspire, to ignites hearts and minds
to do things that we would not otherwise do.
To have that “sudden, intuitive perception or insight”
To see and do things differently.
God needs us to be open to have those
epiphanies that stir us and move us
Those moments that can also be painful and difficult.
and full of uncertainty and doubt.
The ones that change our minds forever.
God needs people who are willing to
travel by another road,
by a completely different way
to follow the light of Christ.