It’s up to us spiritually-motivated people to create a world community,
where now there is only a world population.
– Thomas More
The legend around the feast of Epiphany (January 6th) tells of three “Magi,” or wise men, who travel from the East to Bethlehem following an unusually bright star that appeared suddenly in the night sky. We are not told how, but they have come to believe that the star will lead them to a new king. Upon arriving at a stable, where they find the baby Jesus with his parents, Mary and Joseph, they present him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-11)
Christian theologians interpret the story of the Magi as holding a deeper meaning to this quaint story. They suggest it refers to the special revelation to these travelers and to us of Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God. However, what makes the feast particularly special to me is that it tells us how love becomes visible in our world. It happens through the giving of self in real, concrete ways. It happens in and through an awakening to the presence of the “other.” Sometimes we are led to that awakening in a slow way; sometimes it happens more quickly. But, when it happens, we are called to action. Our awareness of the other, which is simply at the core of what it means to love, must be accompanied by action in the world.
In my mind there is much more to the idea of epiphany than the simple story of a visit to a stable. The word epiphany comes to us from the Greek language and can mean “manifestation.” When something is made manifest, we “see” it, perhaps for the first time, in all its fullness.
I think it is wonderful that we have a special feast day that helps remind us that love needs to be visible; it needs to be revealed in actions of self-giving that are specific and concrete.
During Advent, the weeks in the Christian tradition that precede Christmas, a friend shared a prayer from Edward Hays’ Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim. I would like to repeat an excerpt from that prayer here as a closing to this Advent/Christmas sesason:
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Come forth deep within me….
For my heart has become the sacred crib,
The birthing place of God-among-us.
Peace on Earth and justice for all
Will only become manifest in our lives
When enough of your sons and daughters
Awaken to your Divine design
That has made each of us
An emerging Emmanuel.