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Today we celebrate Epiphany. It’s the rare year that this twelfth day after Christmas lands on a Sunday. Epiphany is a Greek word meaning revealing or unveiling. It’s the name of the holiday celebration of the arrival of the gift-bearing magi to the home of Jesus, recognizing this child as the king promised and long intended. This part of the story is the reason for which we’ve come to exchange gifts at Christmas. And for many cultures, this is the day (not Christmas) during which gifts are exchanged. Matthew alone among the four gospel writers tells us this story of the Magi, Herod’s child massacre in the name of national security and refugee flight of the Holy Family.
The story is populated with contrasts: Bethlehem (a small city) and Jerusalem (the capital in terms of royal power, military might, academic knowledge, and religious institution). The adult king who is a tyrant, unsure of himself, who killed nearly all of his family to preserve his throne is contrasted with a child king whose family is threatened and who give up everything to preserve his life. The astrologers, magician, scholars are able to read in nature that God is doing something unique but the religious scholars who can read the scriptures to know where this royal baby will be born remain indifferent to the nature of God’s mystery. Jesus, the new Moses-like leader of his people must flee into Egypt for sanctuary relief from the King of the Promised Land (Herod) who is killing the Israelite children whereas Moses had to flee into the Promised Land from the Egyptian King Pharaoh after he killed all the newly born Hebrew boys. Those who seem to be on the outside of things such as power, institutions and formal knowledge end up, in fact, being on the inside track of knowing and witnessing God’s mysterious plan. Conversely, those deemed to be the insiders, at the center of things, are exposed as outside of any true knowledge or divine relationship. God’s will is accomplished through the faithful actions of the marginal and outsiders, and the words of the prophets are fulfilled in the self-obsessed genocide of the tyrannical king.
Is this simply history?; or do the theological themes of the three narratives woven together speak to and unveil divine truth in our context today as we too speak of tyrants, outsiders, insiders, migrants, sanctuary and national security?
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation