“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” (From Matthew 2:1-12, Feast of the Epiphany)
I received an anonymous letter in this afternoon’s mail. There was nothing to indicate who or where it was from. Everything was handwritten. It was a single piece of notebook paper. It said, “God please forgive me!” Someone is looking for the child who has been born king of the Jews.
Earlier, in the morning, I spoke with a woman who will soon be having cancer surgery. She said, “I keep praying and hoping.” Someone else is looking for the child who has been born king of the Jews.
They’re not the only ones. There are a thousand other stories just like theirs. They are your stories and my stories. They are stories of struggle and despair, stories of courage and perseverance, stories of loss and grief, stories of joy and celebration, stories of longing and desire. They are the stories of our lives. Every one of those stories is an echo of today’s gospel. “Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?’” (Matthew 2:1-2)
That question is at the center of the wise men’s journey. It has been with them for a long time. It caused them to pack up and leave home. It kept them searching and watching. It gave meaning and purpose to their lives. It offered direction and led them to the child. It’s a question that is still asked today.
We may not use their exact words but at some point, in one form or another, we’ve all asked that question. Sometimes we speak it with calm assurance. Other times it’s a frantic cry. Sometimes it’s the prayer with which we fall asleep. Other times it’s the prayer on our lips when we awake. It’s always with us. It’s the question that drives our lives even when we don’t know it. It lives deep within each one of us. As St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” That question is our guiding star. It illuminates the night skies of our lives. It pushes back the darkness and points the way. The question doesn’t seek information. It creates space for God’s self-revelation. It’s less about what’s going on in our heads and more about what’s happening in our hearts. It isn’t so much a question to be answered as it is a question to be followed. That doesn’t mean there is no destination. There absolutely is. It is the child. The star stopped over the house where the child was. The wise men entered and saw the child with Mary his mother.
To follow the question rather than to seek a final answer means that there is no end to the ways in which God reveals and makes himself known in our lives. It means there is a star guiding, leading, and drawing us to the child in every circumstance or situation we face. God is continually going before us preparing houses of his presence for us to enter. In these houses God makes himself known and available to us.
There is only one God but there are many houses in which God makes himself present. They are houses of mercy and forgiveness, houses of second chances, houses of healing and wholeness, houses of beauty and generosity, houses of wisdom and guidance, houses of love and compassion, houses of peace and consolation, houses of strength and courage, houses of life and hope. There are as many houses of God’s presence as there are stars in the sky.
The Epiphany of Christ is not limited by time or geography. It is as real today as it was in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. Throughout our life we journey, following the star, from one house, one revelation, to the next. There is a house for each situation and circumstance of our life. In every one of those houses the child and Mary his mother await us.
I don’t know what houses God has prepared for you but I know this. The next house to which God’s star is leading you sits at the intersection of God’s self-revelation and the question, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” That is the Epiphany promise. It is a promise made not just to some but to all; to you, to me, to the wise men, and, yes, even to Herod. The star is there for all to see.
The only reason Herod couldn’t see the star is that he wasn’t looking. He wasn’t asking the question. He was unwilling to make the journey. He thought it was enough to tell the wise men to go find the child and to report back the child’s location. Herod only wanted information. He made no room within himself for God’s revelation. What Herod didn’t understand is that there can be no secondhand journey. We do not search or question by proxy. God offers only firsthand experience.
Don’t settle for what the wise men saw. Go look for yourself. “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” Ask the question. Follow the star. Open your life. Give God the opportunity to say, “Look! Right here, right here in the middle of your life, here is the child who has been born king of the Jews.”
“Throughout our life we journey, following the star, from one house, one revelation, to the next. There is a house for each situation and circumstance of our life. In every one of those houses the child and Mary his mother await us” …. Wonderful, so moving. Thank you.
I hope the light of Epiphany is filling, blessing, and guiding your life.
Dear Father Marsh: What a beautiful sermon with multiple layers of meaning! I will send it to an Episcopalian friend who is (literally) seeking a new apartment.
Thank you Robin. “Seeking a new apartment….” Whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, it seems we are always seeking our true home.
Blessings on your journey. May it be filled with Epiphany light.