An Epiphany of Sorts
The Magi’s story is a clever testimony to the power of God who will do anything to get our attention.
Last year my good friend Dawn introduced me to what she calls “Star words.” It is a long list of words that correspond with a particular number. The idea is simple. Pick the first number that comes to mind and that will be your word to focus on for the year.
Last year my word was “change,” which seemed a bit serendipitous since we’d just moved back to LA and I was feeling stuck between what had been, and what could be. As I began to focus my meditation and prayers on my star word, I began to see the different ways God was showing me to change my personal and spiritual life.
Because of one number that God placed on my heart, this church was born. And now God reaches people who seek answers to life’s bigger questions, but would never step inside a “church.”
This year I took Dawn’s list of star words to our Facebook family and the response was overwhelming. I think that most of you would agree that your word was spot on to what you are struggling with or had a desire to focus on this year.
But there were some who didn’t participate. A buddy of mine thought placing the fate of his spiritual focus on a randomly picked number was too “horoscopy and astrological.”
I don’t know if he was joking, but I do know that when we close our eyes and ears to the different ways God speaks to us we put our spiritual health and growth in danger of missing a revelation.
This was not the case of the Magi, who upon seeing one thing ended up discovering something completely different.
We do not know much about these wise men other than they saw something in the sky and sought it out. They also seemed to have some idea of Jewish scriptures. The gifts they brought were highly symbolic of this ancient culture: Gold (symbol of a king), Frankincense (symbol of a priest) and Myrrh (symbol of death).
Adoration of the Magi (Menologion of Basil II, 10th-11th c.)
Many believe they were astrologers who watch the heavens for signs of momentous earthly events. Others believe they were more than just seekers of scientific data, but also astrologers, not unlike people who create our horoscopes today.
Whoever they were they sensed something big was happening. There was an air of expectation that so palpable that anyone with eyes could see something momentous was unfolding. God was awaking the world and drawing us all towards this Divine light.
The Magi’s story is a clever testimony to the power of an awesome God who will do anything to get our attention.
Dante said it like this, “God is the love that moves the stars.” So the way I see it if God will manipulate nature to seek us out then God will also use tomfoolery like “star words” to reach seekers whose hearts and eyes are open to meeting and receiving the Divine truth.
It is imperative for us to see God’s revelations to understand that we are not star-crossed victims of fate, but children of a divine God who became like us to reveal our destiny.
This is what we are celebrating when we celebrate Epiphany – the manifestation of the Messiah to the Gentile world.
Jesus is God’s divine revelation of redemptive love and grace. He is our salvation.
Epiphany is a time for us all to look at the insightful or dramatic moments in our lives that awaken new spiritual insight, vision, or perspective. Moreover, it’s a time of preparation, to make sure we spiritually ready to move when God comes calling.
But how do we know if God is real and speaking to us? How can we be sure it’s not our ego fooling us to see something we want to see?
In Romans, the Apostle Paul writes, “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Rom. 1:20 NRSV). This creation, our known universe, is a ‘general revelation’ that tells us there is something greater than us at work.
Matthew’s story also tells us that God reveals God’s own self to us in ‘specific revelations’ as well: in scripture, dreams, and visions like the ones that warned the Magi to return home by a different way to avoid a confrontation with Herod.
Another way God reveals God’s own self is in the way God moves in our lives. Which is why it is important for us to be engaged with the world around us, locally and globally. At some point, what is happening in the now may just correlate with what you need to know to let God direct your attention and actions.
Of course the Magi will discover that God’s greatest revelation was made manifest in Christ Jesus, “in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him” (Eph. 3:12). Through Christ we come to meet God where we’re at, with all our questions, struggles, and fears.
Whether they understood it at the outset of their journey or not, God moved the Magi to make the treacherous journey, not for science or astrology sake, but so they could see God’s glory revealed to them in the face of an infant king, born not in a palace but in poverty.
Now here’s the twist. It was God and not the Magi who initiated this quest. It was God who lit up the sky and ignited their imagination. It was God who got them to risk their lives, sacrifice their time and comfort, with no real assurance of how the story would end.
It was God who called out to the Magi from the heavens so that they would find their redemptive destiny. Through star words to the living word to ways that are not yet known, God is calling to you.
Your job is to be faithful; to listen and respond to what God is revealing to and whispering upon your heart.
We like to think that we are spiritual seekers – the ones on a quest for God’s presence. But scripture tells a different story. God is the seeker. God is the one revealing God’s own self to you; through creation, in scripture, in your very life experience. So like the Magi, we must hit the road, endure all the troubles of travel and perhaps go against the local king.
There’s no guarantee that we will not get into trouble, fail, or stumble along the way. But all our actions come second to God’s divine call to make this journey. We must keep our eyes open and be ready to adore the one who calls you to redemption, and loves you as you are, and brings you home by a different way than the road you’re on.
Through such redeeming grace, the Magi experienced unbridled joy. Their journey teaches us that with just a spark of faith we too can be illuminated and rejoice in our discovery of the Christ child. Like these wise travelers, we too can pursue our own pilgrimages of faith that will awaken our own great epiphanies.
You can wait for the Spirit of God to be made known to you at some random time. Or you can live in the moment, in the right here and now, with the Spirit of God, as it leads you to the restorative and redeeming love of God. Either way, it’s in the journey we take with God that draws us closer to our true destiny in Christ Jesus.
O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. Come let us adore him.
Prayer: Awaken our hearts, O Lord, and reveal your dreams and desires. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we may not only see, but always proclaim, the glory of Christ Jesus in all that we set out to do, Amen.
Bartlett, David L., and Barbra Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year B vol 1. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008.
Logue, Frank. God is the Seeker. episcopaldigitalnetwork.com. Jan. 6, 2018. (accessed Jan. 6, 2018).
Adoration of the Magi. Fragment from a Roman sarcophagus, fourth century. From the cemetery of Saint Agnes, Rome. Vatican Museums, Museo Pio Cristiano, inv. 31459.
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”