Epiphany and our search for God
We’re told that these people travelled a great distance to find Jesus. In some countries they are called kings while in others wise men. I prefer to think of them as wise men as I don’t identify well with royalty! They were obviously seekers, and that, according to many reliable sources, is the beginning of wisdom. They saw a star.
Well, you might say, that is not particularly wise; anyone can see stars. But to see stars you must look up, and not everybody looks up. When did you see your last star? When did you last look up?
They not only saw that star, they saw a message in it. And that message had to do with another way of living in this world that offered the hope of a new life in the next.
They believed in a world behind this world, a world different from this world and yet appearing through it. They did not simply believe their eyes. They could not believe that what they saw was all there was. They believed that there had to be more to it all.
They were religious people. Non-religious people only believe their eyes. Religious people believe that what they see presents itself as a further question mark. These three saw that star as a big question mark. It invited them somewhere and they followed it. We do not know why they followed it. Maybe they had some expectation that something new was going to happen in this world, that the past history of sin and guilt were going to be taken away, or at least taken over. They were looking for something that today we might call salvation.
Whatever their expectations, they were sure about one thing: their search was not for a learned book that might have the solution, nor a political system that might bring liberation, nor a theory that might explain human behaviour so it could be changed. What they were looking for was a person. That was very wise since salvation can only come from a person.
We know how important people are. When, for example, you go into a hospital you see all sorts of things there like intensive care units, pacemakers, artificial kidneys and lungs, and much besides.
But all that equipment is as nothing without a person able and willing to mediate between it and us. If there is no personal interest in us, it is all useless.
It is the same in a school. All the books, all the teaching aids are there but it is the teacher who makes the school or breaks it. Also, a neglected child is not simply helped by a social services report, a plan or a building. The child is helped by a hand and a voice that says: “I am going to help you”.
These three wise men knew this. They wanted liberation from the past and a better future; they were looking for a hand and a voice – the hand and voice of God. They found it and they went home different men, via another way.
We, too, are in the same position. We, too, are looking for assurance that those things we are unhappy about in our lives can be restored and forgiven, or better, even forgotten. We are looking for a new life, another possibility. To be able to do that we do not need a system, a theory, a theology, a policy, a philosophy, or any such thing. No, we need a person, we need Jesus. And that is the real meaning of Epiphany: our search for God and finding him in Jesus.