Holding On To The Mystery
Many of the sights and sounds of Christmas have slowly and quietly faded away within the last two weeks. Christmas trees and other decorations have been taken down already and packed away for the next eleven months. The Christmas cards we have received in the mail are probably tossed away by now. The classic Christmas carols and songs we heard on the radio, hour by hour, and day by day for the last month have come to an abrupt halt. This is why the feast of the Epiphany of our Lord, that we celebrate this Sunday, is so important for those who believe in God’s gift of Jesus Christ, His Son.
The Epiphany helps us to hold onto the mystery and awe of Christmas. We prayerfully journey back to Bethlehem with the wise men who are mentioned in Matthews’s gospel. They invite us to come and take a second look and ponder the birth of Jesus. Like them, we give reverence for the gift of God’s son.
The Magi are overjoyed at finding the newborn king of the Jews. They present gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. Each gift carries with it a symbolic meaning. Gold represents the kingship of Christ; incense points to the divinity; and myrrh conveys redemptive suffering. Because there were three gifts we assume there were three Magi, but the text does not say that. Later tradition named them Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior. Nevertheless, the point of the story is to emphasize that these Magi were everything King Herod and his companions were not. The newborn king was now made know to the world by the gentiles.
The newborn King of the Jews is born in the tiny town of Bethlehem that lacked all signs of royalty. The Magi had the courage and faith to follow a star which led them to where they needed to be. King Herod is left in the dark regarding where a Messiah was supposed to appear.
In Matthew’s gospel, the Magi from the East represent the whole world. They are searchers drawn by the light. Not in Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem is where their treasure of gold, frankincense and myrrh are poured out before a king whose kingdom is not of this world.
The good news is that Jesus Christ has come to save all. His salvation does not have nation, ethnic, economic, or cultural boundaries. Jesus has broken down the barriers between Jew and gentile, slave and free, male and female, resident and immigrant. He comes to make the human family one again.
May God guide our parish this year as we strive daily to be a “Family of Families,” where all are welcome.
I always felt that it is a good idea to keep something from this Christmas out in the open that will help us to hold onto the beauty and sacredness of these holy days. Maybe use a Christmas card from your friend as a bookmarker? Perhaps keep a favorite ornament on an end-table or book-self? Use a Christmas kitchen towel throughout the year. These can all be helpful reminders that, yes, God is always with us.
The three wise men today reminded me that many of our parishioners travel out of town to worship and celebrate Christmas with their families and friends in other Catholic parishes. There still is an opportunity to share your Christmas gift with Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph parish. This year our Parish Operating Budget is affected because Christmas and New Year’s Day landed on a Sunday, which eliminated two of our regular Sunday collections. Thank you to all who have generously supported our parish.
On this Epiphany Sunday, I thought you might enjoy one of the funny Christmas cards I got this year.