By Sister Sharon Havelak, OSF
Maybe because the past year was so tumultuous – starting with an insurrection at our national Capitol, COVID raging despite the promise of vaccinations bringing an end, bizarre weather patterns including urban wildfires and winter tornadoes, topped off with growing violence everywhere – the story of the Epiphany has taken on a different meaning for me.
It’s always been significant. I’ve loved the story forever and sharing that love with a good friend has made its significance even deeper. Maybe it’s the exotic quality – Magi from a foreign land taking an odd journey – or its drama or the beauty and comfort of the image of the star guiding the Magi or the assurance of God’s love for all. But the unsettledness of my own life has called me to look at the story differently this year. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not quite as tidy as Luke’s account suggests.
Who were the Magi? (What’s a Magi, anyway?) Certainly, they weren’t believers, probably pagans, but people with money and time for such a journey. What was the journey like? Camels, I understand, can be cantankerous creatures; were the Magi used to taking such trips? There was no GPS, no highway; was there even a road to follow? If the starlight was such a bright, directional force, why were they the only ones who took off to follow it?
Were the Magi perplexed that Herod and his advisors seemed so clueless about the star and about the newborn king? What was the neighbors’ response to these unusual, unexpected visitors? What did Mary and Joseph make of the Magi’s gifts? I’m sure they found their friends’ gifts much more practical! What did they do with them? Were the Magi surprised to find the child living in such poverty? Did they wonder what became of him after they returned home? Were their lives changed in the process?
Certainly, I still find much comfort in the conviction that God guides our path in faith, though the path may not always be that bright and clear. But this year I’m much more comforted by the sense of God being present in the messiness of everyday struggles, when the way isn’t as clear as I might like it to be. Can I truly come to believe that it’s not necessary for me to be perfect; that I don’t need to earn God’s love? I’ve already got it!
Maybe, just maybe, God’s much more comfortable with the messiness of our lives than we are. God will keep on, luring us forward, sending us on by a different, unknown path. Just happy to love us, to be with us, wherever we are, just as we are.