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Homily Notes Feast of the Epiphany 2018

Sunday January 7th, The Feast of the Epiphany. “Am I Willing to be Surprised?”

People have always had a fascination with the stars.  In the time of Jesus, astronomers would look at the sky with their naked eye.  In our times, we are a lot more sophisticated.  Very often, there are new discoveries, what we could call Epiphanies about the galaxy.          

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990. The telescope allows human beings to look at the stars outside the distortion of the earth’s atmosphere. We can imagine the wonderful advantage this affords scientists. 

NASA has made a plethora of new discoveries. Just last summer, for example, a new planet was found in our solar system.  But what are we really looking for as we peer into space?  We are looking for a place where people can live. 

Just last summer it was said that an earth-like planet had been found that might support life.  But then it was said that, no, there were 7 such planets.  After that, it was shared that there were 10 planets similar to earth that had been located.  We can imagine how scientists would like to jump on a space ship to explore these new places.  Maybe they have some theories that they would want to prove.  And then again, maybe they just want to learn more.  For that is the questions, “Are we ready for Epiphanies (surprises) in our life and are we ready to take up the challenge that comes with new knowledge that comes from such Epiphanies?”

When we look at the story that we reflect on today about the wise men, we could have some epiphanies just by opening the Bible and reading it.  We have this preconceived notion about three kings who came to see Jesus.  Each king brought a gift as they rode along on their camels. 

But if we read the text precisely, as is written, we could be surprised just by doing that.  First, there is no mention of camels.  We hear only that magi from the East came to Jerusalem.  Second, no number of magi is given (could have been two might have been a hundred).  Finally, they speak only 22 words.  “Where is the newborn King of the Jews.  We saw his star at its rising and we have come to do him homage.” 

We don’t know what these magi were expecting.  We get a sense, they expected to visit a prince in a royal palace. How surprised they must have been when no one at the palace of King Herod knew what they were talking about at first. 

When they went off to Bethlehem they found a poor couple with a child.  We are then told that they, “went back home by another route.” We could take that statement several ways.  One way we could interpret it is that magi no longer expected see what they thought they were going to see so their theories changed.  We do not get a sense they were disappointed, but that they had gained new insight.

We could ask the question why the magi were able to recognize the Christ child when others could not see the savior, the baby lying right in front of them?  Perhaps it was because they had open minds.

Can we let go of our preconceived notions this Epiphany?  Now this seems easy to do when we are looking through a telescope at planets that we have never seen before.  We expect to be surprised and we are.

But when we are dealing with tried and true stories that we have accepted then this might be another matter.  What in the Epiphany story can challenge us?  We might be challenged by the idea the king we worship was poor.  The savior we seek to follow had to run for his life from oppression and injustice.  He wandered the world with his parents for years looking for a place to simply be safe.  His homelessness did not last one night, but it lasted for years until his parents settled in Galilee. All of this should make us think.

We can appreciate those who flee to our country seeking safety from violence. Perhaps the Magi’s Epiphany was that they came to believe that they were one with all humanity. Perhaps they came to see that no one is less valuable than anyone else. You do not have to be born in a certain place with the right parents to be royalty.  No one’s rights take precedence over the rights of anyone else. All of that challenges us. When we get to know someone, our first questions, most of the time, as we determine our interest in them, is where were you born, who are your parents? The answer to these questions means nothing in God’s designs. Maybe if we take the message of Epiphany to heart we are surprised by this Feast. And then we will go back home by another route more grateful for those we travel with.

 This is a rough draft, grammar may not be perfect. 

             



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