When people look down, they see normally and ordinarily a lot of baser things. Victor Hugo, in his book Les Miserables, takes us to the year 1832 in the squalid streets of Paris. Look down, he says, and see the beggars at your feet. Look down, he says, and show some mercy if you can. Look down, he writes, and see the sweepings of the street.
The wise men also looked down and they did not like what they saw during their time. Down below were constant fighting and bickering. Down below were pockets of gluttony and lust, envy and avarice, greed and pride. Down below was humanity broken and held low by the decay of sin.
Long have they waited for a Savior to lift them up from what was holding them down. Long have they longed for a Messiah to bring them up from what was keeping them down. And, long have they wanted a Redeemer who would take them up and would never let them down.
And so, they looked up. They saw a star, a bright shining star that was the sign of good things to come.
When people look up, they see a lot of lofty things. When people look up, they see a lot of the things they missed because they were looking down. And when people look up, things begin to look up for them.
To the world, Christmas may have made love visible. To all, Epiphany made love available. Christmas had brought us a family. Epiphany gave us a community. Christmas showed us the sign and the point of unity. Epiphany pointed to us as the new signs and symbols of unity.
They came from the east and they were called magi, or wise men. These men were called wise because they knew when it was time to look up. They were called wise because they watched and waited for the sign that will point them to the Savior. And, they had wisdom because they knew whose direction to follow. It was not from Herod who told them to return to Jerusalem, but from the baby in the manger who gave them a new way from Bethlehem.
They laid before Him their gifts. They were gifts fused and united by what was below and what was on high—gold because he is the real king, myrrh because he is the ideal prophet, and frankincense, because he is the perfect priest.
Looking around they saw what Christmas was all about. There were Mary and Joseph, who were always on the look out for the Savior. There were the shepherds, who also looked up and saw the very same star they saw. And there was Jesus who once before looked down from the heavens and gifted them with his presence on earth.
Looking around us today we see what Epiphany is all about. There are your friends, who are also looking out for you. There are your loved ones, who like the shepherds and the magi, are looking up and gazing at the same star like you do. And there you are, who probably like the baby in the manger, will continually look around for those who had been down. There you are, who probably like the wise men, will try to lift them up.
For many years people have looked up. The good Lord looked down and gave them Jesus. Now, it is our challenge to look around. Somebody out there needs our help, a kindly advice, a listening ear. Somebody out there needs a pat on the back, a consoling smile, a sharing tear. Somebody out there is like a Joseph, a Mary, a shepherd, a king, a Jesus.
And that could be our own epiphany. That would be our new epiphany.
6 January 2013