The story of the Magi, the Wise Men, which is at the heart of the Epiphany story is a story of a life changing revelation and encounter with the Word Incarnate, the Christ child. Indeed, the word epiphany means a showing forth or a manifestation… a showing forth to the Wise Men who were from the Gentile world. A showing forth of the Christ to all people… to you and to me.
It was a significant encounter for the Wise Men. They, who lived their lives as people who sought the truth, find the very source of that truth in the Christ child. And having done him homage and offering him gifts they return home by another route, transformed and changed by what they have seen, taking the message of salvation with them.
The story itself has an important message for our times. The need to set a different course in life which so clearly manifests itself at this time of year is an expression of a deeply rooted desire to find fulfilment. That’s something which is within all of us. Yet in that search for fulfilment, so many things are sought which simply cannot satisfy. And some of the goals and targets can even be damaging to the individual and to others. Seekers will always be restless in their hearts unless they allow themselves to be drawn into an encounter, and then a living relationship with Christ and his Church. It was St Augustine of Hippo who said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
The Gospel is quite clear that having paid homage to the Christ child, the Wise Men left for their own country by another road. When we have an encounter with Christ, we don’t go back the way we came… we are changed, transformed. God calls us to travel via a new way, a new road with him. The Epiphany reminds us in a powerful way that when Christ is revealed to us, we are transformed, and our life’s journey takes a new direction.
We may still get caught in the same kind of struggles as non-Christians and at times our lives, rather than heading in the direction shaped for us by grace, where our horizons are set by God, remain within the confines of our own attempts at self-improvement. During those times we need to lift our eyes to see the vista ahead of us… to raise our hearts and minds to the horizons which are set by God.
The key thing about our celebration of the Epiphany is that it should bring us back to an encounter with the Child in the manger – and so back to the focus of our faith. And having encountered him again, and worshipped him, as the Wise Men did, we should go on our way by a different path, with lives lived in and through a growing relationship with him.