The Epiphany of the Lord
Isa 60:1-6 + Eph 3:2-3,5-6 + Mt 2:1-12
January 8, 2017
“Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”
As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany and look at the manger scene, we see three wise men arriving. We see three kings who were willing to sacrifice of themselves in order to find a newborn King. Their sacrifice—one that each of us should imitate—reflects the One they were seeking. Or in other words, they were willing to sacrifice so greatly, because they believed in the greatness of the One they were searching for. Each of the wise men was willing to leave his kingdom—where everyone bowed down before him—in order to find a king greater than himself. Each of the wise men was willing to give up his riches in order to find an even greater treasure.
I have never met anyone who doesn’t want to be rich. I’ve met many people who believe they’re rich, but who actually have become satisfied with riches that—in the end—are not going to do them any real good. This usually happens because people don’t recognize that inside the human soul, each of us has two different wells to draw from, to drink from in life as we try to find happiness, meaning, and contentment.
Anyone who is made content—who is “filled up”—by things that you can see, hold, drive, and watch is filling up the most shallow part of themselves: that first well, the shallow well. Now every human being has this well within them. It’s not that there are shallow people over here, and deep people over there. Every single human being—including the man named Jesus who was born 2000 years ago—has a shallow well inside of them, in addition to the well that is so deep that it has no bottom.
The purpose of the shallow well is to let us enjoy and use the things of this world rightly. The things of this world become our hobbies, the things that help us pass the time, the things that help us enjoy whatever leisure we have in life. This is a good thing. There is a real purpose for this shallow well. After all, God’s the one who put it there. But when a person tries to live their entire life out of that shallow well, they get into trouble. They go thirsty.
Sometimes, even in their thirst, they don’t even notice that second well, that deeper well. But that deeper well is the well that gives meaning to life, and that helps us understand that our lives are not about ourselves, and that our lives are not about this world.
If you peer into the deep well, the first thing you notice is its depth, and that can be frightening. Many of us have a healthy fear of heights. But drawing from this well requires humility because it forces us to recognize the depth of our need for God. This humility is what we see in the three wise kings, who were willing to leave the splendor and riches of their kingdoms, and enter a grotto where animals lived and left their waste, in order to prostrate themselves before a child born of a peasant girl. When the three wise kings fall to the ground before the newborn Jesus, they show us what it means to sacrifice—to give up what we think is important in our kingdoms—in order to live from that deeper well.