The Second Sunday of Christmas is another "hinge" feast connecting the Christmas celebration with the next season of the Church's liturgical year: Epiphany. It was hard for the Lectionary planners to appoint just one Gospel to this Sunday. There are three to choose from: 2 from Matthew and 1 from Lk. Today we have one of the Matthew texts: Out of Egypt I have called my Son. Joseph was led to leave Bethlehem and flee to Egypt for safety. Herod was going to find the child and kill him at all costs: even if it meant that many innocents might die. Today's Gospel recounts how, after Herod's death, Joseph leads Mary and the child back their homeland, setting up a household in Nazareth.
The selection from Luke's Gospel jumps ahead to when Jesus is 12 years old and accidentally gets left behind in the Temple where he impresses the Elders there with his questions and display of wisdom beyond his years. This is the great "Finding of Jesus in the Temple" story.
Today's Gospel selection from Matthew follows the birth of the Child in the cave-stable and the three kings paying him homage with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are gifts for a King.
All of these readings are "epiphanies" or manifestations of who this Child is. All of them include life situations where those led by God look beyond the ordinary and see the extraordinary. It's not just about a time when "Three Kings of Orient Are" brought special gifts to a special child, but it's more: God gives each one of us a gift too. What is the gift? The gift you and I are given is the very real possibility of a change of fortune in our lives.
Now I'm not preaching a "gospel of success" or anything like: Follow Jesus and your life will be filled with riches and love! No, I'm talking about something different. Let me explain. So often we get into a pattern of living (as comfortable as we can make it for ourselves) and are reticent to change it in any way. Or we've lived with a chronic problem, of health maybe, and just accepted nothing can be done about it, or perhaps we've had bad-luck in relationships and think this is just the way things will always be for us. It can be any pattern of life that we feel we have to accept and can't be made better. We can't change our situation. (Actually, this can be true on family, community, or even national level as well.)
That's just the way it is until faith activates in us. God's action in our lives becomes real. We have an Epiphany and the gift we receive is this: that in all circumstances of (our) life God opens up the possibility of a change of fortune.
After years in exile in Babylon, used to their daily routine in captivity, Jeremiah the prophet comes along and says
See I am going to bring them . . . gather them . . . among them the lame, blind, those with child and in labor, a great company . . . home.
God is always doing something good and holy in our lives if we can open to it, be willing to do something different, let our ordinary way of thinking about our lives (exiled from God's Spirit) change into something extraordinary! We get off the duff of our pride and be willing to move, be led by something, Someone, to the possibility of a change of fortune. As St. Paul puts in in Ephesians: As you come to know him. I.e., live with the "possibilities" God can place before you.
This is precisely what Joseph did. He could have stayed right where he was. Take his chances. Stay in familiar territory with Mary and the Child. But instead, opening to invitation and inspiration, he fled with them to Egypt. They would be safe there, until further notice. God is always acting in the world. God knows us intimately, better than we know ourselves. God will continue to guide and lead us to new possibilities. After stepping out from our "infallible" patterns of living as good people, doing good, we will look back and see that God, who always has loved us no matter what, has led us to the deepest Joy.
Now, as our Epiphany life evolves (open to the possibility of change of fortune) there will be times of disorientation, even a faith crisis. Crossing the Sinai desert to get to Egypt is not easy. Returning to Jerusalem and wondering how you'll find your family home and life there is not easy. You keep going. You trust what God may be doing with you. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. When you've been in darkness (without a sense, or not allowing a sense of God's guidance) suddenly coming into the light is blinding. You have to part your fingers a little at a time. This is normal. God understands and compensates for this. You're moving and God is in control. For example, the three Magi, instead of returning to give an account of their experience to Herod, are led to go home by another way. God thinks and leads in everything if we let God help us.
What's a good theme song for our Epiphany journey? How about "Do you hear what I hear?"
Said the night wind to the little lamb, do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb, do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night With a tail as big as a kite With a tail as big as a kite
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees With a voice as big as the sea With a voice as big as the sea
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, do you know what I know In your palace warm, mighty king, do you know what I know: A Child, a Child shivers in the cold Let us bring Him silver and gold Let us bring Him silver and gold
Said the king to the people everywhere, listen to what I say Pray for peace, people everywhere! listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night He will bring us goodness and light He will bring us goodness and light
Live Epiphany. Live the possibility of a change of fortune in your life and in the life of others. Most of all, with God's grace, be an Epiphany to others.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.