Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
“We saw the star at its rising and have come to do him homage” Mt. 2:2
Epiphany, a word meaning a divine manifestation within human history, is one the most cherished feasts in all of Christendom.
For example, this feast has a very strong tradition in the Catholic cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Very early on Epiphany morning, children in these countries, and many others throughout the world, un-wrap gifts left by the three wise men on their way to worship the Christ Child.
Children, it seems, are a primary focus of this feast of Epiphany and of this gospel story. Not just the child Jesus. Not just those children slain by the brutal king Herod. But all children, everywhere.
This feast ultimately becomes a riveting story built masterfully around the issue of migration – Joseph and Mary and the child Jesus gathering the few things they possessed and escaping to Egypt; a story of marginalization – the plight of the poorest of people; and finally, a story of displacement – especially in its impact on the fragility and innocence of a child.
Perhaps this feast of Epiphany, then, presents an important moment for each of us to step back from this ages-old drama to bring it up to date by reminding us that King Herod isn’t the only one who has killed and maimed and fiercely mistreated children around the world.
Herod surely isn’t the only one, for example, who has left children impoverished and trafficked and hungry and displaced and left vulnerable to every imaginable terror.
For example, one of every four children in the United States of America under the age of six lives in poverty. Overall, 25% of children in our country are poor. In the developed world, only Mexico, Chile and Turkey have higher child poverty rates than we do!
Wikipedia reports that 1,200,000 children are trafficked each year!
This situation has become so severe that it has been declared a major human rights violation.
In the United States, one out of every five children “struggle with hunger.” Consequently, they often experience severe physical and emotional health issues.
Today’s gospel, then, stands as a challenge to all of us to become better informed and more willing to help end the misery that affects so many of our youth.
The star, the magi, a mother, a father, and a baby all plead with each of us to open our eyes and our hearts to the realities of terror and migration and vulnerability that children must face in today’s world.
Centuries ago, three wise men beckoned to follow a star – a star that would lead us to the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams.
They found it in a child … a child born into great poverty … a child whose parents had to flee to another country to protect him – as so many parents still must do some 2000 years later.
That same star exists to this day.
And it still beckons. It still inspires. It still calls each of us to risk reaching outside our safe little lives to follow those wise ones to the only place we can find true fulfillment:
In a child – a child who can become for each of us “Wonder Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.”
Perhaps this is best summed up in these borrowed words:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes have gone home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace to all,
To make music in the heart. (Dr. Howard Thurman)
And, if I may add:
To follow that star and the magi to a place deep within each of us – that place of sensitivity to the pain and heartache and sorrow of so many children throughout the world.
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.