“What gift will you bring to the Christ Child?” we were always asked in Catholic school when we were young. Our answers were all about ways in which we could be “good boys and girls” – behaviors that would make the Christ Child smile and our parents happy. There was certainly a devotional value to that practice, a teachable moment that gave us a sweet and kind image of God “in flesh” to whom we could easily relate. Of course there was still the hope that we might get the gifts for which we were so longing, usually in those days rather simple and less expensive gifts than what is “expected” in today’s society.
The story of the gifts brought by the Magi from far away lands perhaps factored in to the consideration of what our gifts to the Baby Jesus would be. We needed to give him our best. Reading the gospel this morning for this feast of Epiphany (MT 2:1-12) brought back those memories as well as songs about the little drummer boy (with his drumming) and the shepherd boy (with his lamb). Importantly, in the end, the child who had nothing to give determined to give Jesus his heart.
The dictionary meaning of the word epiphany is a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something, an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking, or an illuminating discovery, realization or disclosure: a revealing scene or moment. We think of the Magi’s search for and meeting with God-come-to-earth as indicative of the world-wide importance of the Incarnation. Their recognition of Emmanuel (God-with-us) was intuitive and clear.
It is for us in our day, I believe, to recognize the presence of God – however we perceive this presence – and to spread the message of that presence in deeper and broader ways. May each of us be open to on-going epiphanies in our lives so that we move toward the light that we are seeking and share that light with the world.