December 29, 2015 // Uncategorized

Following the star of Bethlehem leads to ‘land of perfect day’

Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
Mt. 2:1-12

This weekend the Church celebrates the ancient feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, reflecting upon the visit of Magi “from the East” to the crib side of the newborn Savior.

The first reading is from the third and last section of Isaiah. After four generations of exile in Babylon, survivors, or descendants of survivors, of the long past Babylonian conquest of the Holy Land finally were able to return to their homeland.

It was because Persia in turn had overtaken Babylonia. Persia’s King Cyrus allowed the exiles to leave Babylon and to return to the Holy Land, but homecoming was bittersweet. The land to which they returned after so many years was desolate and unyielding.

The prophets insisted that, in spite of this desolation, times would change for the better, because God would not forget the chosen people.

So, this reading rejoices. God will vindicate the people, delivering them from all their woes. So, the prophecy predicts a great new day!

In the second reading, from the Epistle to the Ephesians, is the frank and direct statement that God intends salvation also for the Gentiles, not only for the chosen people. No one is beyond the range of divine love and mercy.

St. Matthew’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. Among the four Gospels, only Matthew and Luke refer to the conception, birth and very early life of Jesus. Mark and John are silent on these subjects.

Only Matthew has the story of the Magi, but this story is one of the most profound, and expressive, revelations in the New Testament. Better to understand it requires recognizing the symbols and images contained in the passage.

First, the Gospel speaks of visitors “from the East.” “From the East” was a phrase referring to much more than a direction of the compass. It meant a distant and unknown place. What was the origin of these visitors? The Gospel does not say, indicating only — but critically — that they were not Jews.

What were they? Scholars have not agreed on a translation. Some think that they were astrologers, in a time when astrology was heavily associated with theology and philosophy. Others think that they were nobles or kings. The definition of Magi still is unclear.

How many were in their group? Legend over the centuries has seen them as three in number, but Matthew mentions no number.

Regardless, they were gifted, learned, and very sincere, earnestly seeking God.

Herod tried to remove any competition this newborn king might create. He discovers that according to the Scriptures, the Savior indeed will be born in Bethlehem.

Central to the story is that in searching for the Lord, the Magi followed a star in the sky, and that human evil attempts to stall God’s mercy for its self-interests.


A more modern Christmas song has an especially relevant message for Epiphany, “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem,” words by Adger M. Pace, music by R. Fisher Boyce, and arranged by Tom Fittke.

The song’s words pray that by following the beautiful star of Bethlehem in our own lives, we will reach the “land of perfect day.”

The Epiphany is much more than a commemoration. It is a call to us to follow God’s beckoning to live in a place of endless light and warmth, the kingdom where Jesus reigns supreme.

Too often we allow ourselves to slip into the role of Herod, if even on a lesser scale. We ignore, or outright reject, God by choosing to live as our instincts or limited human understandings suggest to us.

We may lure others into darkness.

Still, the saints have discovered that the “land of perfect day,” warm and bright, is real. Jesus guides us into this wondrous world of light.

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