From the Rector
This weekend we have the rare treat of experiencing the culmination of the season of Christmas on a weekend. Twelfth Night occurs on Saturday evening, and we will mark that holy time by burning the Christmas greens after our 5:30 Eucharist. You are invited to bring a small bit of your own greens to add to the pyre, which will symbolize the light that came into the world that the darkness could not, and will not, overcome (John 1:1-5). Then, on Sunday morning, we’ll celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, at which we’ll hear the story of the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem, who presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in homage to the new king.
As you listen to the story this weekend, I hope you’ll pay attention to how it closes. Matthew writes that, after presenting their gifts, “and having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” It seems like a throw away line-just to let us know that they didn’t report back to Herod about the identity of the child. But I think that the fact that the reading tells us that the magi went home a different way than they came is important.The encounter with Christ forever changes them. They are not the same, and so the path they choose cannot be the same, either. Walking the old road, the old way, doesn’t make sense in the light of their encounter with Jesus.
Considering all the energy we put into Christmas, it would be easy to confuse it as an end in itself. The parties, the decorations, the food, the presents. It’s so much fun (and work) that we can get lost inside it for a while. But as the magi show us, we do eventually have to move on. We have to go home, or as bartenders say at closing time, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Christmas is not an end in itself. It’s really just the beginning.
For those of us who have caught a glimpse of the Son of God, the brightness of that epiphany cannot entirely fade away – even when it is no longer right in front of our faces, even when it seems like only memory. It so deeply affects us that we are changed. Life is not the same. And so, like those stargazers from the east, we move forward into the future by a different way, as different people. For us, as for the magi, the Incarnation is not the climax of the story, it is just the beginning.
If you are hungry to keep the bright light of God’s Son shining in your life, if you want to keep the feeling of beauty and joy that so permeates our world at Christmas, then I invite you to follow the wise men’s example. First, start on this journey by leaving something behind, a gift you give to God. I know it seems ridiculous to imagine having less now than before Christmas, given the hundreds of billions of dollars our society just spent on gifts to ourselves and one another. But the magi show us that our journey out from Bethlehem and back to our lives is better begun with lighter bags and fuller hearts, not the other way around.
And second, choose a different way to go forward. Call it a belated New Year’s Resolution, if you want. Let the light of the Son of God warm your heart and change your life. Go home by a different way. Start praying and reading the Bible every day. Forgive that old grudge that you’ve been holding on to. Give more away this year than you spend on car payments or vacations. Make attendance at worship and formation a real commitment. Spend an hour or two every week serving and supporting people who can’t possibly repay you.
Whatever it is, allow your life to be changed, because when you truly encounter Emmanuel, you can’t help but go home a different way.
See you this weekend.