The Rev’d Nathan Corl Minnich, STS
Ordained Lutheran Pastor of the North American Lutheran Church
It is most surely hard to imagine the light from a star leading anyone a great distance, especially for modern technologically advanced people. Think about this, when was the last time you even looked at the stars? Can you even point out particular stars anymore? Could you possibly find your way, without the iPhone or GPS, simply by looking at the heavens?
Well, that is akin to an exercise of faith. Looking to something constant in the heavens to guide you is nothing like the things this material world has to offer. Trusting in something that is beyond your reach, understanding, and control is difficult at best. Yet, this is what our Lord is consistently asking us to do. To trust in the God whom we cannot see, in all things, is sometimes frightening. But, when we recognize God, in the form of Jesus, as he gives to us his very Body and Blood in the Eucharist we are looking to heavenly food which to the eyes of flesh look like bread and wine, but to the eyes of the soul are the very living God, body, soul, and divinity broken and shed for you!
The sages of old, left the safety of their contemplation to seek out the God made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. They sought him even though they were not of the faithful of Israel. They risked their lives to bend the knee at the savior of the world, yes even the savior of the gentiles. They did him homage, and brought him gifts, just simply to have the opportunity to worship before the great I AM. God continually reminds us of His promises, and offers forgiveness and life everlasting to those who would honor the +Son in these same ways. Can you imagine what it felt like for the Magi, when you come forward with the priceless gift of a contrite heart, and do homage to the very real presence of the Lord at his table? The reception of Holy Communion should draw us just as close to that moment, as if we too were traveling from afar, just to bow before the Lord.
We have so much more than a star to follow. Epiphany, a day which brings to a close the Christmass season, is so much more than just a day. It marks a moment in history which is intimately linked with our moments right now through the same Jesus Christ the Lord. Faith, like our own flesh, becomes stronger when we put it through rigorous exercise. It needs to be pushed, and pulled, comforted and soothed. It needs to be the subject of great discussion and learning so that we might more readily make use of it when everything else in this world fails us.
Epiphany speaks of hardship, struggle, pain and suffering. It’s filled with displaced families, and risky travel just to catch a glimpse of God! Our journey is so similar, if only we would rely on seeing differently. What light is guiding your steps? A fake one, that shines where you want it to shine? Is it an oppressive light that seeks to destroy or expose others? Could it be a light so dim that you don’t even trust its light? Why not try a light that is love? Amidst a world of lights, can you find one that shows you places where you can bind up brokenness in others? How would it feel to follow a light that caused you to walk alongside someone different from you? What if you gave attention to a light that only revealed opportunities for compassion and selfless love? What if true light enabled us only to see the good in others, and hid from our eyes that which we would judge or condemn?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of the darkness. Many of you can attest to this one! But I’d rather be given limited light (even as tiny as that of a star) if it led me to places where the gospel would heal those who hurt, comfort those who mourn, and feed those who are hungry. Humankind has shone its own false light so brightly, that we’ve exposed so much more than is needed. Sometimes, I think God likes the mystery of faith so much, that we grieve Him by our own hate-filled ways of discovering everything for ourselves. The Gospel of our Lord is lamp enough for each one of us, and for our soul. It will light our pathway pointing to Christ. It will expose, for ourselves, our shortcomings so that we might seek reconciliation. Epiphany light is not a far off bright ball of gas in space. Epiphany light is the Word of God, present in the beginning of time, through whom all things were made, and was born flesh from the womb of the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord. And what is it that we see when THIS light shines? We see GOD, in the manger, on the cross, in the Word, and on His altar. Faith can see clearly what the eyes cannot yet behold. “The mystery of your presence, Lord, no mortal tongue can tell: whom all the world cannot contain comes in our hearts to dwell. You satisfy the hungry heat with gift of finest wheat. Come give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.” (WOV 711)