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Feast of the Epiphany: Story of the Magi reminds us that encounter with Jesus changes everything

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Sunday Scripture readings for Jan. 7, 2024, Feast of the Epiphany
Is 60:1-6  Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13  Eph 3:2-a, 5-6  Mt 2:1-12

Story of the Magi reminds us that an encounter with Jesus changes everything

On a Sunday that centers on discovery, revelation, and manifestation — the very definition of “Epiphany” — one of the most important discoveries for the magi (and for us!) comes at the very end of this week’s gospel.

After searching for the newborn king and finally finding him, the magi were warned in a dream to avoid Herod. So what did they do? “They departed for their country,” Matthew writes, “by another way.”

This is more than GPS or Google Maps sending them another route to follow. What is happening involves much more than geography. This is the profound lesson for all who have found Christ after a long and difficult quest. It tells us this beautiful truth: an encounter with Jesus Christ changes everything. It alters the direction of life, the way you continue your journey. It sends you to places you never imagined.

Certainly, the magi learned that and much more in their search to find the newborn king. What they discovered tells us a lot about what it means to find the Lord — and where, in fact, you find him.

First, we learn, this newborn king was not with the people you would expect. He’s not in a palace, with another king, Herod. He was not surrounded by servants and footmen, wealth and power. No trumpets. No fanfare. No. Christ was discovered in a simple house, where the magi “saw the child with Mary his mother.”

This newborn king’s court is different from any other. Christ is discovered among the humble, the overlooked, the meek. Don’t look for him among privilege or power.

No. He was born into a world that could not make room for him.

Secondly, Christ’s first home was off the beaten path. He was in a small town that most people wouldn’t think about twice, Bethlehem. (Scripture reminds us later that the place where he grew up was a town where people sneeringly asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”) From the very beginning, in the first days of his earthly life, this most extraordinary of children was found among the most ordinary of people in the most ordinary of places — so ordinary that you have to “search diligently,” as Herod put it, to find him.

This tells us something wondrous: Christ could be anywhere. He could be anyone. He could be everyone. You never know where you might encounter him.

Thirdly and finally, amid the darkness, Christ was discovered where there is light. A star guided the way to the place where this new king was found. The point is clear: If you want to find him, follow that light. It’s difficult to do that in a world so often overcome by shadows and darkness. But the magi looked up and looked out. They found the son of God in a forgotten corner of the world, among forgotten people, under a star, beneath a pinpoint of light.

Follow the light. That may be the most reassuring and practical lesson of all.

This is our Epiphany — our great discovery of God for our own time. He is made manifest to seekers in astonishing places, in astonishing ways.

And after he has been discovered, nothing can ever be quite the same. Our lives change. Our direction shifts. Our perspective and sense of purpose are transformed. The old way will not do. There is a better road to travel.

Set out on a new journey. The road may be unfamiliar and the signposts may be different, but it will be worth it. And a new light will guide the way

I can’t think of a better message from the magi — or for the start of a new year.

Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog, “The Deacon’s Bench.”