How has light of the newborn King shown in us?
January 4, 2019
As a child – and even now as an adult – my favorite pieces in every Nativity scene are the Three Kings with all their retinue. They add an exotic and exciting element to that lowly manger with their bright colors; their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh; and all their camels, horses and elephants. It is as if the silent night of the Christmas mystery was suddenly blown wide open by the unabashed light of Epiphany fanfare.
Indeed, the word epiphany means manifestation. As the Scriptures remind us, “There is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light” (Lk 8:17). God did not come into the world to remain hidden in the darkness. Rather, he entered our world, darkened by sin, to bring the light of a new day to it (see Is 60:2). The Feast of the Epiphany heralds his great design and makes known his salvation to the world.
Whereas the shepherds were told of the birth of the Messiah and how to find him (Lk 2:8-12), the Magi did not have the benefit of such angelic messengers. Nevertheless, their watchfulness and careful discernment helped them recognize the light of the newborn king. Even though they traveled from afar in the dark, by keeping their eyes fixed on the light of that star, they rejoiced to find him at journey’s end. Seeing both the shepherds and the Magi gathered around the Lord’s manger, we are reminded that God’s revelation is for all people of every race and tongue, of every tribe and nation (Eph 3:2-6).
I think the Wise Men’s journey is very much like our own journey in faith at times. On occasion, it is possible that we might enjoy utter certainty about God’s revelation as did the shepherds. More often, however, it seems that God chooses to manifest himself to us as he did to the Wise Men. We must walk in the dark and keep our eyes fixed on him – even if our vision of him is no more than a speck of starlight in the night sky.
We might wonder why God would choose to manifest himself with such subtlety. After all, would not a light blazing like the sun be more effective than the light of a nighttime star? By the same token, would not a life of faith be easier to live if it were more blatantly obvious? I wonder. After all, the message was revealed to the shepherds as clearly and as majestically as possible, and, despite such clarity, all they could say to one another was, “Let us go … to see this thing that has taken place” (Lk 2:15, emphasis mine). The Magi, on the other hand, arrived in Jerusalem and immediately asked to see “the newborn king of the Jews … to do him homage” (Mt 2:2). The thing about looking into a light as bright as the sun is that it leaves one blinded, whereas one can gaze directly at a star in the darkness and still see clearly.
The subtlety of God’s revelation in the Epiphany is magnified for us by those who studied the star at its rising. In them, the world outside of Israel recognized its Savior. As we place the Three Kings in the crib this weekend, we might ask ourselves: How have we seen his light shining in our lives and how do we reflect it to others?
Father Jeffery Loseke is pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Gretna. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.