So, there were these wise guys who had an epiphany.
Well, not like those wise guys. (Although who’s to say?)
We traditionally think of them like this:
So, anyway, they had all of these charts and books and tools for looking at things and, by using all of them through some system, which was invented through some school of thought, they discovered a small child that would grow up to be the King of the Jews. And these guys were all about kings. They found them, honored them, and some even say that they made them, if kings were in need. But, this time… well, it was different.
Pauper King: It was different enough that this future King of the Jews wasn’t born in the Jewish Palace. That he was, in fact, born in a stable with a feeding trough for his first bed. By the time they found him, this toddler named Jesus was well out of the swaddling clothes and living in a house. But, it was a simple house, a peasant’s house in a simple, peasant town, and, in fact, the current Jewish king didn’t even seem to know that he existed. That was different, but not altogether strange. I mean, even back in that time there were plenty of rags-to-riches stories.
Weird star: And, yes, it was a bit bizarre and overwhelming that the star that they had plotted and followed seem to stay still – but, after all, these guys were called “Magi” from which we derive the word magic. They were well acquainted with the weirdness of the world, and, though they got really excited about the star, this, I propose, wasn’t the most wonderfully weird part. The really different part, the odd, strange, startling, earthshaking, and altogether life-altering part was… well…
Cosmic Message: What these wise guys, these men of wisdom and learning, these kingmakers were personally thinking at the time is something that we will never know. But we do know that, after finding the child and paying him homage proper to his future kingliness, they all had a similar dream. They all dreamt a warning not to return to the current king of the Jews as they had promised to do. Now, these were not men who would have easily broken a promise to a sitting king, telling him that they would do one thing and then totally dissing him. But, they took the message in the dreams seriously and did not go back to the Jewish Palace.
That was the thing that was really strange and different – they didn’t do what they usually did.
“They departed to their own country by another way.”
Yeah, I know. Pretty simple words that can be pretty easily overlooked. You could be saying to yourself, “What? That’s it? Come on. Christina Chase, you are just another one of those people that reads way too much into every little word in the Bible. They just decided to take a different road, one that wouldn’t go to Jerusalem. That’s it.”
Yep, that’s it. But, that’s everything. They changed their plans, these men who were all about charts and plotting future paths. They went back on their word to a King, they chose to go against the wealthy and influential guy on the throne, these men who were all about paying homage and tribute to royalty. They were from the east and didn’t need to go south to Jerusalem in order to go back home, but that’s exactly what they were going to do – until their minds changed. The excitement of the weird star, the peasant child with his humble mother, and that dream – all were different enough in themselves, but together they made a magnificent difference. They made the wisemen do something different.
Because that’s exactly what Jesus, the true King of the Jews, the Eternal King of Kings, does.
When we get who he is, when we recognize that this man is God Incarnate, Lord and Savior of the World, then we smack our heads with the epiphany – and our lives change. We cannot continue on the same old road. We cannot go back to the same old way. We must do something different – we must be something different. Or else… well, if we don’t, then there was no epiphany at all in our lives. We followed the map, we saw the child, we paid the dutiful homage, and then we did everything else like we always do. No change. No difference. No epiphany. No salvation.
What did you do this past Christmas? Did you pick gifts from a list to buy and give to selected family and friends? Did you address and stamp cards for the customary people, remembering to dutifully add a little note to those people to whom you felt you owed a little something more? Did you check the church schedules to be sure that you would show up for Christmas service on time, allowing extra time for finding a parking spot and pew? Well, good. No, really, that is good — but it’s not good enough.
Because, now, Christmas is over, and what are you going to do? Stop singing the songs and start taking down the decorations? Nostalgically mourn the loss of another Christmas? Dread the credit card bill?
If you really celebrated Christmas, then you cannot simply go back to doing the usual things. Because, if you really celebrated Christ, then your life would always be different. You will go home, yes, that’s a blessing — but you will find new ways to get there. Becoming Christian doesn’t mean that you become born again — the greatest of epiphanies — just to do the different thing of becoming a churchgoer and charity supporter. That’s good. But not good enough.
Becoming Christian means that every day you experience conversion.
Every day you look up from your life to find the light of the divine. Every day you see God in the face of an everyday stranger. Every day you let yourself be open to surprises, to the weird and wonderful, to being overwhelmed and overjoyed — even in doing something as simple as taking another way home. (Or starting a blog post in a different style to get people’s attention.)
There are two roads from which we can choose: (1) the road of non-Christianity, upon which the wisemen had planned on continuing to travel and (2) the road of Christianity, upon which the wisemen chose to set out after the epiphany. As we are following Christ, however, there are still myriad paths from which to choose on our way to our eternal home. We are called to always choose strangely as Christians, to be different. Like this:
Enemies are to be loved and treated as friends.
Trials and tribulations, the crosses that we bear in life, are to be kissed and embraced.
Worldly poverty is to be understood as wealth and worldly wealth as poverty.
Sorrow is to be blessedness and suffering is to be joy.
It’s a weird world when we live in it as true Christians – but it’s wonderful, too. Healed by God’s mercy, strengthened by God’s love, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, we simply cannot do things the regular way anymore. We are new. Every day.
If you believe in Jesus Christ, then you have had your epiphany. You know where home is. And you know that the way to get there is not the same old road.
© 2016 Christina Chase
 Matthew 2:12 RSV
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.