Seeing Stars: The Epiphany of Our Lord
Lectionary readings for Epiphany, January 6: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2: 1-12
“They set out; and there ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage.” Matthew 2:10, 11
Today is the feast of Epiphany—the day when Christians celebrate the journey of the wise men to find the Christ child and the showing forth of God’s glory in such an unexpected place. The arrival of the wise men in Bethlehem and the homage they paid when they found Jesus in the manger is the culminating event of the Christmas season. Their willingness to leave the familiar and embark on such a perilous journey invites us to our own journey of seeking, finding and encountering God in unlikely ways and in unlikely places.
As the Christmas season slips away and the trappings are stored for another year, the journey of the wise men speaks to us of those moments when we are not satisfied to hear other people’s reports of mysterious revelations. Yes, we have heard news that Christ has come into the world but hearsay is not enough: we want to see and experience him for ourselves! This desire can, if we let it, open up a new kind of journey—one that is alive with the possibility of encountering the mystery of Christ in the unlikely places of our own lives. We, too, can make choices to leave the familiar and follow the Light that is rising in our own hearts, leading us to that place of great joy.
who called the rich to travel toward poverty,
the wise to embrace your folly,
and the powerful to know their own frailty;
who gave strangers
a sense of homecoming in an alien land
and to stargazers
true light and vision as they bowed to earth—
we lay ourselves open to your signs for us…
Rise within us, like a star,
And make us restless
Till we journey forth
To seek our rest in you.
Kate Compston, Bread of Tomorrow
©Ruth Haley Barton, 2011. Feel free to share this article using the buttons below; please do not reproduce and distribute without permission.
Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder of the Transforming Center. A teacher, spiritual director, and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups (June 2012) and Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.
As Advent and Christmas come to a close, what has been the fruit of your waiting and watching for the coming of Christ in your own life? What journey is God calling you to now?
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This is the first Christmas I have understood the Epiphany…yikes, did I really just confess that on the internet…I am in a season of advent in my life, a season of waiting and joyful anticipation having had to leave my church of 32 years. Learning the prayer of Mary, of her indifference to all but that which was Christ in her. It is a season of uncertainty, a season of trust, a season of journeying and of following that star of the Divine within and traveling in a small company of those who understand and travel with me. Thank you, Ruth, for helping us to have the courage to let go and follow His voice, His call, His rest.
The thought that came to my mind as I read the poem was that the journey into the unknown could well be a journey into quiet and resting rather than doing and striving. I believe the Lord is calling me to learn to be quiet and to learn to rest in Him. It could be like a “homecoming in an alien land”.
I have been waiting and watching since after Christmas when my mother-in-law was hospitalized for pneumonia. Until now, she is still in ICU and the doctors are keeping a close watch on her condition. The “diligence” of the doctors spells to me the same diligence I need to pursue while waiting and watching for the Messiah, the Savior Jesus, who alone can bring healing to mom’s 89 years old body.
Thank you, Ruth, for this reminder today. I love that last part of the poem:
“Rise within us, like a star,
And make us restless
Till we journey forth
To seek our rest in you.”
Because of what I am learning through your ministry I am seeing that the restlessness, emptiness I often feel can actually be a star leading me onward on my journey with Him rather than something that I need to run from through creating romanticized pasts or idealized futures in my head.
Yes! That is so true! Thanks for connecting those dots for us.
Jesus Christ has become the “centerpiece” of each day. I have learned a more effective way of seeking God’s Presence, not just His provision. The result is to embrace each day as a gift to be opened with joy as we will be consciously together – spending time, doing ministry, enjoying and serving others, and learning to be who I’m designed to be for Kingdom purposes.
What a beautiful way to walk into a New Year–approaching each day as a gift to be opened with joy with you and God are doing it together.
This was a good reminder of the spiritual journey we are all on. The Magi kept going even though they did not exactly know where they were going! This is a time of year for me when God speaks to me and reminds me that I am His child and on His journey. He refreshes my soul that He will continue to guide me as I look daily for His “directional star” to shine .. Happy New Year to all! Diana
a star i can stand under – a star i can follow – how many times have i missed that star i saw rising – how many times i have walked past that burning bush – how many times have i walked past the prayer of God in my heart
Beautiful. May we all be faithful to follow the Light of God wherever it may lead.
Lovely. Many thanks.
[…] Ruth Haley Barton features this lovely poem on her website today. It captures Epiphany with eloquence. Beckoning God— who called the rich to travel toward poverty, the wise to embrace your folly, and the powerful to know their own frailty; who gave strangers a sense of homecoming in an alien land and to stargazers true light and vision as they bowed to earth— we lay ourselves open to your signs for us… […]