The Epiphany of the Lord
Isaiah 60:1-6 + Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6 + Matthew 2:1-12
“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
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As the Church celebrates the feast of the Epiphany, we see three wise men arriving before the manger. They are men willing to sacrifice of themselves in order to find a newborn King. This is a sign of their wisdom: their willingness to sacrifice. Their sacrifice reflects not only their own wisdom. Their sacrifice also reflects the One they were seeking.
Each of the wise men was willing to leave his kingdom, where he was king—where everyone bowed down before him—in order to find a king even greater than himself. Each of the wise men was willing to give up his riches in order to find an even greater treasure.
Few persons don’t want to be rich. However, there are many people who believe they’re rich, but who have become satisfied with riches that—in the end—aren’t going to do them real good. This usually happens because people don’t recognize that inside the human soul, each of us has—if you’ll consider this metaphor—two different wells to draw meaning from: to drink from as we try to find happiness, meaning, and peace.
Anyone who is made content—who is “filled up”—by things that you can see, and hold, and drive, and watch, is filling up the most shallow part of themselves: that first well, the shallow well. Now every human being has this shallow well within him. It’s not that there are shallow people over here, and deep people over there. Every single human being, including Jesus, has a shallow well inside, in addition to the well that is so deep that it has no bottom.
The purpose of the shallow well is to let us use and enjoy things of this world for worldly needs and purposes. This is a legitimate part of being human. It was a part of the life of Jesus. There is a real, true and good purpose for this shallow well. After all, God’s the one who put it inside us. But when a person tries to live his entire life out of that shallow well, he gets into trouble. He goes thirsty.
Sometimes, even in his thirst, he doesn’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. Most of us, after all, have a healthy fear of heights. No one wants to fall. But falling into this well—which spiritually we have to do in order to draw from it—is a form of humility.
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, in order to prostrate themselves before a child born of a peasant girl.
Picture this: these three wise kings fall to the ground in adoration before the newborn Jesus in a stable, where the hay of the animals was likely mixed with the waste of animals. Would you be humble enough to kneel in that hay? These three wise kings show us what it means to give up what we think is important in our little kingdoms in order to live from that deeper well.
Look at these three wise kings. Look at their sacrifices. There are at least two sacrifices that each king makes.
The first sacrifice is their journey. They leave behind the lands where they rule, where they are in control, in order to bow down before the Ruler of Heaven and Earth: in order to follow Him.
The second sacrifice is what they take from their treasuries, and place before the new-born King. But these gifts are given as a response to a greater Gift. From Jesus, from the Gift of God the Father, the wise man knows that the whole world, and every land, and every person in every land, will receive an infinite blessing. The gifts of the wise men are only responses to God’s great goodness.