Epiphany – January 2, 2022
Matthew 2:1-12

          Happy New Year, Happy 2022!  It’s a new calendar year, and today we are marking the Feast of the Epiphany which we are celebrating early, as it actually occurs on Thursday, January 6, the twelfth day after Christmas.

Epiphany tells the story of the magi, or the wise men, traveling by the light of a bright star to see the child who has been born “King of the Jews”.  Of course, as we heard, King Herod is very upset by this news because he doesn’t want to lose his power as the current king. For Herod, and for all who plot evil in dark corners, the bright star of Jesus’ birth is not good news. It illuminates a world much larger than Herod imagined, a world in which he is not in control. And the wise men, having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, left for their own country by another road.

I have always appreciated the ending of our story from Matthew today – “they left for their own country by another road”.  These wise men began their journey, following a start, with hope. Hope that by following the star and finding the baby in Bethlehem, their life would be changed. And their life was changed, but not in the way they thought it would be. Their whole world was changed. It was turned upside down.

Also of note, the wise men set out on their journey in spite of their fear, in spite of the fact that they didn’t have all the answers, in spite of the fact that they didn’t know how far or long this journey would last. They were following a star. They found Christ and they went home by another road. In other words, their journey twisted and changed, and they went home in an unexpected way.

We just moved through Advent and Christmas, a season whose story hinges on dreams and visitations that occur by night and by day. Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men: sleeping or waking, these figures from our history entertain strange and wondrous invitations and annunciations that draw them down a road they do not expect but one they are willing to travel. Each of them has left room enough in their lives and their hearts to recognize, receive, and respond to the life-altering messages when they arrive.  How do we do this in our own lives? Do we do this in our own lives?

As we sing We Three Kings of Orient are…we are unmistakably participants in the sacred story.  Notice that it does not begin “Those three kings,” but “We three kings.”  You and I find ourselves on the road to Bethlehem, dressed in royal attire, and our hands hold presents for the new monarch whose birth is foretold in the night sky.  It is we kings who carry to the stable our gold and frankincense and myrrh.  This gospel story does not tell simply what happened once, but it tells what happens, or can happen, in our lives here and now.

We stand at the threshold of a new calendar year.  Who knows what twists, turns and detours lie ahead and what effect they’re going to have on our lives? Lord knows we’ve had a couple of challenging years.

Life is full of changes.  Some we choose – like going off to college, or moving to a different location, or starting a new job.  Some we don’t – like experiencing the death of a loved one, or the failure of a marriage, or the devastation of a storm. Just when you think things are going your way, the rug’s pulled out from under you and everything goes topsy-turvy.

Of course, we’re not the first to face the uncertainty of the future. Like those who’ve gone before us, scripture beckons us to look to God to order and provide.

God invites us to take the journey to Bethlehem, over and over again, and to invite others to join us in the thrill of knowing this Jesus of Bethlehem. It is a simple journey and yet a sometimes treacherous and bewildering one. It is a journey of hope.

Amanda Gorman is a young and an extraordinarily talented poet who released a new poem for 2022 entitled “New Day’s Lyric”. When she was asked what inspired “New Day’s Lyric,” she responded that she “wanted to write a lyric to honor the hardships, hurt, hope and healing of 2021 while also harkening the potential of 2022.”

“This is such a unique New Year’s Day, because even as we toast our glasses to the future, we still have our heads bowed for what has been lost,” she wrote. “I think one of the most important things the new year reminds us is of that old adage: This too shall pass. You can’t relive the same day twice — meaning every dawn is a new one, and every year an opportunity to step into the light.”

Her poem, her lyric reads:

May this be the day
We come together.
Mourning, we come to mend,
Withered, we come to weather,
Torn, we come to tend,
Battered, we come to better.
Tethered by this year of yearning,
We are learning
That though we weren’t ready for this,
We have been readied by it.
We steadily vow that no matter
How we are weighed down,
We must always pave a way forward.

This hope is our door, our portal.
Even if we never get back to normal,
Someday we can venture beyond it,
To leave the known and take the first steps.
So let us not return to what was normal,
But reach toward what is next.

What was cursed, we will cure.
What was plagued, we will prove pure.
Where we tend to argue, we will try to agree,
Those fortunes we forswore, now the future we foresee,
Where we weren’t aware, we’re now awake;
Those moments we missed
Are now these moments we make,
The moments we meet,
And our hearts, once all together beaten,
Now all together beat.

Come, look up with kindness yet,
For even solace can be sourced from sorrow.
We remember, not just for the sake of yesterday,
But to take on tomorrow.

We heed this old spirit,
In a new day’s lyric,
In our hearts, we hear it:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
Be bold, sang Time this year,
Be bold, sang Time,
For when you honor yesterday,
Tomorrow ye will find.
Know what we’ve fought
Need not be forgotten nor for none.
It defines us, binds us as one,
Come over, join this day just begun.
For wherever we come together,
We will forever overcome.

Thank you, Amanda Gorman.  And from our story of old….”the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”  May we all follow the light and be the light, taking the journey to Christ over and over and over again.  Amen.