Epiphany earthed in reality
It just struck me, during the holidays, when I was down with a chest infection and forced to spend most of my time watching TV or reading books and doing little else, how much of our time is taken up in escaping from reality.
Can you imagine in years to come when priests have to speak of this generation at our funerals, how very little of our real lives there will be left to speak of?
We all enjoy escapism;
One armed bandits
Most of the time it's just good fun, it helps us switch off from the harshness and stress of reality. Why not, some may say?
As long as we don't overdo it.
The gospel story today could be seen by some in the same light.
It has all the essential ingredients of a good escapist story.
Ø The exotic element; wise men from the East
Ø The mysterious element; a guiding star
Ø A baddie; a wicked king
Ø a feel good factor;a vulnerable set of parents and a baby boy.
It's a wonderful story.
But, it's not just a simple story.
It was set in an actual location, a story of people who really lived; and who were firmly rooted in reality.
It is a story about astrologers, who 'observed a star at its rising ' and using the wisdom of their time, interpreted the sign that a ruler, a great ruler was due to be born.
So they made a journey, fulfilling the OT reading from Isaiah, we heard also today, that nations would come to the light and kings to the brightness of the dawn, bringing gold and frankincense, symbolising kingship and priesthood.
Matthew adds that a gift of myrrh was also given, a more sombre gift for a burial, and so the shadow of the cross begins to loom even then.
The prophecy describes the One who would come and save the people, and we as Christians believe this One to be Jesus…and the astrologers find him, not in the king's rich palace, but in an ordinary stable.
Herod was no cartoon character, he was an evil and ruthless king, who had his wife and two of his children murdered.
He was a jealous schemer and his actions brought an ancient prophecy to fulfillment, when hundreds of innocent children were murdered so that he could try and destroy the Christ child; we read that Rachel wept for her children because they were no more. (Jerem 31;15)
This is not only a wonderful story, it is a fascinating story, which reads like a jigsaw being pieced together, bit by bit.
People think that religion is a form of escapism, a fix to allay our fears, the opium of the people.
But this is no magical or meaningless legend; it is much more special than that.
Just as the wise men; ' observed the star at its rising' so we are called to be alert to God's call on our own lives and to respond to his call.
We too are called to be pilgrims on a journey, in order to discover God, like the astrologers, leaving security and comfort behind, so that we can search for and find the presence of God in the humble and ordinariness of our own surroundings and situations of life.
Once we find it , we cannot keep it to ourselves, but we must let others know, and not just disappear off into the sunset like the heroes in a romantic novel.
Our faith must be earthed in the real world and in reality itself.
We have been called by God, to help transform life on earth, to participate in His work of making new His eternal truths to others, so that they might share in the hope which is ours too.