“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Matthew 2:2)
Last Monday, I ventured into one of our local malls and discovered that all of the Christmas decorations had been taken down. This reminded me of when I walked into a Macy’s, the standard for over the top decorations, on December 27th a couple of years ago and not a single trace of Christmas was to be found. Stores are so fast to put up decorations and are just as fast to take them down. I’ve been encouraged in my new neighborhood that all my neighbors have left their Christmas lights up because last year when I visited my parents for a couple of days after Christmas, I noticed Christmas trees laying on the side of the road for garbage pickup on December 26th. I don’t get it. Why is the world so quick to discard Christmas? Here in the church the Christmas season lasts until next week when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, so you will see the decorations even though the world has moved on. But today is a particularly meaningful day because we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany when Christ is revealed to all nations. Today our Church must shine as that star did over Bethlehem. Christ is in our midst yet sometimes we fail to recognize him. We have opened our presents, and we have rung in the New Year. Why must we put this glorious celebration of Christmas behind us as if it were something we had to do and are thankful that is finally over?
In today’s gospel, three men from the East come looking for the newborn king of the Jews. Foreigners come looking for Jesus while his own people fail to recognize him. All the signs were there: the star, the words in Scripture, their longing for a Messiah. Jesus was in their midst and even the king’s own priests and scribes failed to recognize what three foreigners recognized. The beauty of this day and the entire Christmas season for that matter is that we marvel and do homage to this God-child who was born for us. That is why the first reading tells us to rise up in splendor because our definitive light has come and glory surrounds us. Like the Magi, we rejoice upon seeing the star, and we prostrate ourselves in the presence of the newborn king who shines brighter than any star. But the world seeks to hide that star or diminish its light.
Friday night, some friends of mine passed by the rectory to take me to dinner and their 3-year-old daughter stood in the living room looking intently at my Christmas tree. She was quiet and hid behind her mother with a sad face. I asked her what was wrong, but she did not answer. It took some prodding from her mother for her to finally explain that she was sad because my Christmas tree did not have a star. (I tried looking for a nice one. I really did but never got around to finding one and putting it up.) Even a 3 year old recognizes the importance of the Christmas star and why it should be held high for the entire world to see. This light must be in the heart of every Christian on this day so the spirit of Christmas doesn’t vanish when we go back to school or to work tomorrow morning. The world will leave the joy of Christmas behind. As Christians, we should not.
So it comes down to this as we continue our Christmas celebration: are we going to be like Herod and his priests who fail to see the beauty of the presence of Christ in their midst? Or are we going to be like the Magi and recognize Jesus in our midst, seek him out and share his light?