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The Feast of the Epiphany
Year B
Following the Star

Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72: 1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

The reading of horoscopes is a popular way of predicting the future. Many people read their horoscope as faithfully as they brush their teeth. Now I am not an advocate of horoscopes. Basing life’s decisions on the stars is not the Christian way of dealing with the future. But the custom of reading horoscopes is as old as the people that have been impressed by the thousands and thousands of lights in all kinds of patterns in the sky. The popularity of reading horoscopes is a clear indication that people are searching for meaning in their lives.

In Matthew’s Christmas story, this tradition led some astrologers from the East to the child Jesus. What were they searching for as they scanned the sky, night after night? Were they looking, not just for a new star, but for a new way of living their life? They must have been dissatisfied with their lives to have been searching so diligently. They were hoping against hope for something new. So when they saw a new star they packed their luggage, saddled their camels, and followed without any hesitation. They blazed a trail that has been followed ever since, the trail toward a new vision, a new society. It is a trail that leads in new directions, in new ways of relating to God.
Surely it is our life work as Christians to follow that star, to search for the whereabouts of Christ in every situation, to see where and how and in what area Jesus wishes to be King. It is our vocation to keep asking, “Does Jesus reign in my life?”

These days are the darkest of the year, a time when the stars are most visible to us. One star in particular gives hope to us and to our faltering world. It leads to something significant. The magi followed a particular star through the dark nights and they met Christ. We are called to be the stars that lead others through the darkness of night to Christ who is the light of the world.
What is the star for me? What is the single, over-riding purpose of my life? What is the purpose or dream or hope or challenge in my life? Those are the questions of this season of Epiphany. Does the star bring me into relationship with Christ? Am I willing to follow the star where God is leading? How do I even know where God is taking me? Do I take the time in my busy life to look up at the night sky and see the star? Am I aware enough to see the star stop?

Does anyone notice in the rush and madness of twenty-first century life? Someone is mugged. He screams out to passersby for help. And except for the disinterested glance of the taxi driver, a politician, a salesperson, and a few hundred people, it goes unnoticed, unchallenged. It leads me to ask, “Where are the sages in our world?”
Where does the star lead me? Do I track it through the streets of Newcastle, in my workplace, in the park, to the mall? Do I follow it as it stops over the refugee, the widow, the immigrant, the young woman with the child? Does it take me past the person sitting in the wheelchair, the street person with her shopping bag and cart, the disturbed young man crying out his obscenities, the drunk lying in the gutter? Does it take me past the child shivering in the cold? Does it take me past the needy waiting in line at the Food Bank?

Do I follow the star wherever it leads? Do I follow to Bethlehem where I offer my gifts, my talents? Does it lead me to the place where I can worship God? Do I lead others in the search for Christ? Do I help them on the journey to hope?

To what or to whom do I open my treasures? What gifts do I offer? Are they my finest gifts? Do I give of myself to God and to others? Does that become the consequence of knowing Christ?

The magi were transformed by their visit to the manger. In what way has my life been transformed? If I continue to walk in old paths, in old directions, then what has Christmas accomplished? What difference has the Incarnation made in my life? New life means new paths, new goals, new attitudes, new motivations. What paths are being opened up before me as I enter a new year? Am I a new person? How has my encounter with the Christ child affected my life, my way of living? What is God trying to accomplish in me at this very moment?

The season of Epiphany that we are entering is a time to reflect on the changes that we need to make in our lives. It is a time to make resolutions that we will try to keep throughout the year. Let us think about the gifts we bring to Jesus. What loving actions can we offer to help spread God’s realm? What can we do to help transform our own lives and the lives of those we touch? How can our loving actions be a part of our prayers for them?

This is a time for this parish to reflect on the changes that need to be made in your corporate life. As a parish in transition you face new challenges. You are beginning a search for a new Incumbent. How prepared are you for the changes that will inevitably come about over the course of the next few months? How do you open yourselves to embrace new ways of doing things, new leadership? What growth needs to take place? What are the challenges to growth? How does this parish continue to reach out into the community to draw people into deeper relationship with God? How do you embody Christ in the twenty-first century? Those are the things we need to explore together over the next few months.

We have a huge task ahead of us. But God is there in the midst of us. Jesus comes to us as a little baby, drawing us closer to God. As the magi bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, so we bring our gifts of love to God. And in so doing we reach out into a needy world with the light of Christ, a light that transforms all of creation.
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