Isaiah 60: 1-6; Matthew 2: 1-12
In 1930, T.S. Eliot published a poem entitled The Journey of the Magi. In that poem, Eliot tries to convey the story of this gospel through the eyes of these Magi journeying to find the Christ child. He writes of the challenges they would have faced on this journey because it wasn’t just about crossing a street. These magi had to travel miles and miles and days to seek the Christ…the weather conditions, the soreness of their feet, the challenges with the animals, the wondering whether this is all worth it, doubts, questions, and everything else they would have encountered. But in the end, what Eliot comes to realize, because it is really a poem of his own faith journey in finding the Christ, is that birth and death are but two sides of the same coin. He comes to the realization that in order to truly see who this Jesus is, the Christ child, something must die. He must first let go of his old way of life, thinking, anything that prevents him from seeing the Christ. Is it not the same for these magi, for Mary and Joseph, for the Shepherds…when the encounter the Christ child, something changes and they can’t go back to “business as usual.” Their lives are changed; things are let go of and birth happens.
The same is true for the people Israel to whom these prophetic voices have spoken to in our first reading throughout Advent and Christmas. They find themselves at the point where they are again entering the promised land…what they have waited for and what they’ve wanted, and yet at that moment, they don’t know if they’re ready. They have become comfortable with exile, they had become comfortable with the exodus, they become comfortable with war and violence that they don’t know if they’re ready to give it up. God is inviting to something new, the new home, and they’re comfortable. So what Isaiah tries to convey is that you no longer have to live in darkness; you no longer have to live with this dark cloud over your head; God is calling you to this new birth, but first they must let go of the old way of life.
We see that with the Magi as well. By our terms, they would probably be considered “new age”…not Jewish or Gentile, yet something was drawing them to seek out this Christ. What they come to find is not only the Christ child, but the Christ within. At the end of the reading we hear that they leave by a different route. After an experience of the Christ, you can’t go back to the old way of life, it sets you on a different journey. Before they enter that house and see Mary and the Christ child, they must first let go of their old way, their life of astrology, their old way of living. Something dies before this birth takes place. When they finally meet the Christ child, their eyes are opened, epiphany happens, and life is changed forever.
As we come to the end of this Christmas season, we too are given the same invitation to this journey of faith, but before we can truly see beyond this Jesus and see him as the Christ, we must first let things go; our old way of thinking, our negativity, even relationships that have gone astray, those things we hold onto out of fear as Herod does in today’s gospel. As much as the Magi have experienced the Christ, Herod is still not there…he is comfortable with the fear, with the violence, and he will do anything in his power to prevent others from the experience and does. God calls us beyond that life and to encounter Him in this child. When we can begin to see the Christ in this child, then we can begin to see the same mystery that unfolds in this Eucharist where bread and wine become the Body and Blood of that Christ. God invites us to experience this birth, to see this Epiphany, but first an invitation to let go, to let the past die so that this birth can become a reality in our lives and world.