Didn’t you expect that things would be different this year? I did. I expected that we would be over with the pandemic and could really celebrate the new year? If you’re like me, trying to take in the news of this latest variant and then learning about a loved one who’s tested positive, I want to say to God, “I’m done with this. Enough already!”
But God’s answer comes back: I’m never done with you. God isn’t done with any of us. I have to pause for a moment in my prayer, reflecting on the “everlasting-ness” of God’s love. Life changes, we change. But God’s love never dies.
This week I think of the wise men. On January 6, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, that moment in the calendar when we honor the wise men’s visit to the Christ Child.
Other characters in the Christmas story honored the tenets of Judaism, like Mary and Joseph. Not the wise men. They were foreigners. They didn’t live in the Holy Land. All we know from the Bible is that they “came from the East.”
There’s a lot of conjecture about what religion they might have followed, possibly Zoroastrianism, as they came from what we now know as Persia. The Bible doesn’t say—as it doesn’t actually say that there were three of them (that “three” comes from the number of gifts they gave: gold, frankincense and myrrh). It also doesn’t say they were kings.
Look at what they did though. They followed a star and a revelation that came to them, how following it would lead to this newborn king. With their fancy gifts, you wouldn’t expect them to discover that this royal figure was the son of a lowly carpenter.
I can imagine the thoughts that ran through their heads, why they shouldn’t have made the trip. What a wild goose chase. But they trusted. And didn’t give up. I find that’s exactly what I need to do now. Trust in God. Trust in God’s goodness. Trust in God’s love.
They also trusted in their dreams. Like men used to the ways of power, they visited King Herod as they followed the star and told him what they were searching for. Crafty King Herod pretended this was great news and that they should let him know what they found.
After paying homage to the Child, they were informed in a dream to avoid going back to Herod. After all, his violent jealousy would lead to the slaughter of those little children in and around Bethlehem who might usurp his power.
Thanks to the dream, “they left for their own country by another road.” (Matthew 2:12)
That’s what the promise of Christmas holds, no matter when we celebrate, no matter what dreams we’ve had. After we’ve worshipped the Christ Child, we can’t go home the old way. We have to take another road.
Whether you traveled or not this Christmas, hold on to that hope in the New Year. Honoring the Christ Child puts us all on a new road.
I hope to see you in person at 8:00 AM or 10:30 AM or online at 10:30 AM on YouTube. Blessings to you and your family as always. Happy New Year! Fr. Bill+