EPIPHANY OF THE LORD – YEAR A
9-12 year olds
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem
This Sunday we hear about those wise men who come to visit Jesus, bearing gifts. A missing detail is how many wise men there are. There could have been 2, there could have been 17! I like to imagine a whole bunch of wise men crowding into the house whispering to each other, "Did you put my name on the card?" Or someone at the back piping up nervously, "Hey, those treasure chests--they're from all of us."
We know that these wise men were from other countries. They were not Jewish and did not yet follow the One True God. They did not have a personal relationship with God the way the Jewish people did. We can see this in the way that there are no angels speaking to them as there are for the Jewish shepherds, and for both Mary and Joseph. Instead, God gives them a star--a bright light to follow. These are people who find signs of God in nature alone.
For centuries, this was enough--to find God in nature. But God was not content for things to remain this way.
God desires more. God desires relationship.
In order to follow a star, we know that the wise men had to travel at night. We remember that there was no electricity, so the night would have been extremely dark.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
They follow a great light to the one who is Light--the Light of the World. They kneel before him, and offer him all that they have. And they leave, changed by the encounter with Jesus:
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
They are no longer following a star. Notice: now God communicates to them in a dream. Doesn't that remind you of Joseph? The past two Sundays we heard that God communicated to Joseph though his dreams. God has come near. God has entered into relationship with these wise men, these Gentiles.
What has happened to the star? What has happened to the Light? I wonder what you think of this idea: the wise men leave, carrying the light within them. Carrying it back to their own countries.
Aren't we all drawn to the Light, like the wise men? Don't our parents desire the Light for us and so bring us to be baptized? I remember one boy in grade 2 who told his parents that he wanted to be baptized. He told the priest, "I want to be so close to Jesus."
Once we have the Light, we are forever changed, like the wise men. So what do we do? We carry the Light out into the world. It won't be long before you are preparing for Confirmation. A wise woman described Confirmation like this:
If Baptism lights a lamp within us, with Confirmation this lamp is lifted up onto a lamp stand so that it might benefit the community.*
Like the wise men, we come close to Jesus in Baptism, and then, like the wise men, we go out into the world spreading that joy. Confirmation gives us the gifts we need to carry the Light into the world.
But unlike the wise men, we can return again and again to visit Jesus--but more than visit him, we can encounter him. How? In the Word of God, in Reconciliation, in the Eucharist. In prayer.
*Sofia Cavalletti, The History of the Kingdom of God, part 2, p. 51