In literature, Light and Darkness have been used to symbolize goodness, and it’s polar opposite, evil. In our Advent and Christmas readings, the Prophet Isaiah used darkness to refer to the gloomy plight of the people of Ancient Israel who looked to recover from exile. Isaiah used light when he spoke of the hope of Israel’s future restoration. But, this is no ordinary light. It is the Light of God encircling a nation, in order to transform it, so that God’s light will shine through it, inviting all of the other nations to experience, the light of God’s love. It is the experience of being chosen by God to be loved and redeemed by God.
The Epiphany, or Manifestation of God, that we celebrate today is characterized by the Great Star, shining through the darkness—pointing a way through the darkness into the Light of the Lord. And who is to be illumined by this light? For whom is the Good News of Bethlehem meant? Not just the Magi. It is meant for us.
The story of the Magi can be our story as well. At some point we find ourselves in the darkness, with all of its uncertainties and fears. Life is sometimes that way. But it is important for us to remember that God is shining His light upon us. The darkness may not go away and we may have to travel a little way in the darkness, like the Magi. We may even have to tangle with our own Herod, someone who is powerful and deceptive. Herod is the example of a pathetic individual whose decisions are a “knee-jerk” response to fear. As a result, he is at the mercy of his emotions.
But notice how the Magi deal with him. They do not deal with him alone. They deal with him together. They need each other’s presence in order to discern what the appropriate next step would be. In a similar way, as we too are on our Pilgrimage through this world, we need each other—the support that the people of God, the Church may bring.
This year, as we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, we stand in the threshold of a brand new Year. This is the perfect time for us to pray for each other, that Jesus’ light leads us into the New Year. This is also a time for us to re-dedicate ourselves to God. After being in the Messiah’s presence, the Scripture says, the Magi went home by a different way. God led them through danger into the Light of Jesus Christ, but it didn’t end there, they went home by a different way. They lived the rest of their lives by a different way. That’s the invitation held out to each one of us: that we take the light of Jesus with us and that we live the rest of our lives, by a different way.
The story of the Magi teaches us to cultivate the practice of spending time with God, whose light will lead us into a deepening relationship with Jesus, who promises us, Peace I leave with you. My own peace I give you— Peace which the world is unable to give. This is my gift to you. And so, do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid (John 14:27)