Epiphany: When the Star Beckons

Lectionary Readings for Epiphany: 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 they had seen at it’s rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When the wise men 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 2:9–11

Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season (which, let’s be honest, involved a whole lot of waiting!), and moves us into a new season characterized by active seeking. In particular, Epiphany takes its themes from the journey of the “wise men”’— pagan astrologers who had been actively searching the skies for indications of a new reality that was emerging; when they saw that special phenomenon in the sky, they wasted no time in leaving their familiar setting to actively seek the light of God’s presence.

Their journey involved taking initiative, reorienting their lives to a new reality, and striking out on an unknown path with courage and determination. It required them to trust themselves and what they had seen, to negotiate shrewdly with a jealous king, and to believe in the power and veracity of their dreams.

In this culminating event of the Christmas season we, too, are invited on our own journey of actively seeking God in new ways, in unlikely places, and then following wherever the light of God’s presence leads us. Like these intrepid travelers we, too, have heard the news about a fresh coming of Christ into the world but it’s not enough to hear other people’s accounts second hand. We are compelled to seek out our own personal encounter, no matter the cost.

As we celebrate Epiphany, we invite you to take a quiet moment this weekend to read the story of the magi (Matthew 2:1-12) once again with fresh eyes and an open heart. Then engage the poem below and wonder, Where do I find myself in this story today? What phrase in the poem stands out and captures how I sense God beckoning me to a new journey in this new year?

Beckoning God—
who called the rich to travel toward poverty,
        the wise to embrace your folly,
        the powerful to know their own frailty;
who gave to 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.
Stir us with holy discontent over a world 
which gives its gifts to those 
        who have plenty already
        whose talents are obvious
        whose power is recognized;
and help us
both share our resources with those who have little
and to receive with humility the gifts they bring to us.
Rise within us, like a star,
and make us restless 
til we journey forth
to seek our rest in you. 

Kate Compston,  Bread of Tomorrow

©Ruth Haley Barton, 2023. Not to be reproduced without permission.

For further reading on Epiphany, click here.


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Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder and chief essence officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Invitation to Retreat, and Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest.
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Thank you for your words of encouragement from the magi. I spent a lot of time meditating on their pilgrimage this Christmas. I was very impressed by the way they became inspired by the Lord and the way He communicated with them (astrology, huh). Unlike the others, they were not visited by angels and there is no mention of them being afraid. Also, they weren’t Jewish. The first gentiles to worship Jesus, I suppose. Also, I got a kick out of James Taylor’s song about the magi. “Home by Another Way”.

There are many layers of spiritual meaning in the story of the magi and I so appreciate your reflections on some of them here. Like the magi, may we journey towards the light God is showing us with more faith than fear!

As I prepare to enter into a sabbatical in a couple of months, I have this very sense of what you have written here for that piece of my own journey….”taking initiative, re-orienting my life to a new reality, striking out on an unknown path with courage and determination, requiring me to trust what I am sensing is mine to do and to believe in the power and veracity of my dreams…” Wow! Yes, all of this resonates in me at this very moment. It is not lost on me that today is a full moon. I am following “my star” and seeking the Christ Who has called me to rest in Him. Thank you for continuing to stir depth and truth.

I just love hearing this. Thank you!

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