Have you ever heard the word “Epiphany” before? Do you know what it means?
It means “when God shows up” and yesterday was the first day of Epiphany. Epiphany is the season in the Christian year when we remember the three wise men or magi. They came from Iran to see the baby Jesus. According to legend, they saw a star on the horizon and followed it across deserts and mountains to the home of Mary and Joseph and their little boy Jesus. Some scholars believe that Jesus was toddler when they finally arrived to the place where Jesus’ family lived.
Now, this season tells us that we can experience God anywhere and that everyone regardless of where they come from can hear God’s voice and follow.
WHERE COULD YOU EXPERIENCE GOD’S PRESENCE? OR HEAR GOD’S VOICE?
God comes to women and to men, to old and to young, to people whose skin is light and people whose skin is dark, to people who are wealthy and live in big houses and to people who don’t have money and sleep outside in the cold. Maybe that’s the most important thing about this season of Epiphany – God loves everyone, God talks to everyone – and God wants us to love everyone, even people we have trouble loving. That’s why I say in church “all are pilgrims, none are strangers.”
Today, I want to share my favorite Christmas book. This was my dad’s book, and I’ve read it pretty much every Christmas since I was five years old. It is the story of the “Other Wise Man” by Henry van Dyke – we know the story about the three magi, who came from the East, but one didn’t make it to Bethlehem.
According to the story, his name was Artaban. He was a teacher, healer, and religious leader. He was going with the three friends to see the child Jesus: but he got sidetracked.
Do you ever get side tracked? You want to do one thing, but you end up doing another. Or something happens and you have to change your plans.
He was going to meet his three friends…but on his way, he found a man who was injured, and he stopped to help him. Because he stopped he missed his friends, the wise men who brought gifts to Jesus.
Then he arrived in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and Jesus’ family was not there….but there were soldiers – a little bit like the Evil Empire of Star Wars – and they wanted to hurt the children, but he paid the leader money to leave them alone.
He kept looking for Jesus, and went to Egypt because he had heard Jesus and his family were living there, and for years he helped sick people get well because he was doctor as well as a religious teacher.
After thirty years of looking for the child, he finally made it to Jerusalem. There was a crisis and Jesus just been arrested, and he wanted to try to get him freed. But, on the way, he encountered a young woman who was going to be made a slave because her father owed money. He paid to set her free.
He felt like he was a failure because he didn’t ever give his precious stones to Jesus, and he was old and tired, and was going to die – and then Jesus came to him in his imagination – and said “you’re not a failure. We never met, but you helped me when he helped the sick man, the mother and the child, the girl who was being harassed, and all the children in Egypt.”
J.R.R. Tolkien who wrote books about Hobbits once said “not all who wander are lost.” This man wandered and thought he missed Jesus and Jesus was with him all the time.
And Jesus is with you all the time, and when you help others, you help Jesus, and Jesus walks beside you.