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Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany - Sunday January 5, 2020
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver BC

It all begins in joy 
and to joy it all returns.  
Yet in between, a thousand deaths each day.  

That’s how I imagine the Magi 
summed it up their journey
as they return 
to the place they once called home. 

It’s possible I’m just projecting
my life on their journey but
can you imagine?

Two years slouching towards Bethlehem 
and two years back into the world. 
In between, epiphaneia. 
Divine encounter. 
Harrowing journey to give,  
Harrowing journey to receive 
the gift that changes everything.  

A journey that began  
with a star, a spark: 
a journey that begins with intuition 
unleashes them 
leading all of us down  
the road made only by walking 
a road that inevitably,  
though never directly, bring them (brings us) 
to encounter with  
all we’ve been looking for.  

Arid wilderness, desert, mountain.  
Years of travel 
beauty and wonder 
fear and trembling 
determination and doubt 
lost in the daylight 
at home in the dark 
fumbling towards God knows what.  

Hoping, praying, journeying,  
step after aching step, intuitively knowing 
that this journey would  
in some way lead them  
to a new understanding of home. 

It all begins in joy 
and to joy it all returns.  
Yet in between, a thousand painful, life-giving deaths each day.  

This is the journey of life, isn’t it? 
Flashes of insight and intuition,  
words from God, 
divine intimacy,  
deep cleansing breaths  
on new paths toward life 
paths mired in struggle 
and daily uncertainty. 

And even though the future is uncertain, 
even though we don’t know 
where the road will lead,  
we step out, recklessly, hopefully,  
faithfully afraid. Held in the arms 
of mystery. Led by smoke and star and fire.  
Led onward by God.  

I’m awed at the faith of the Magi, 
 all too often my faith is so weak. 

Their inner compass, 
the divine spark within and amongst them
telling them this is a journey worth taking. 

That’s the impression I get from what we read tonight.  

Even so, I wonder. How easily did they make their decision? 
What pressures held them back? 
What did they fight about? 
How many Magi left with them at the beginning?  
How many completed the journey?  

How did they know? Did they know
what they would meet when they finally got there? 

How did they know? Did they know 
how or if or that everything would change? 

I wonder at their daring.  
But I also wonder if they were wise enough 
to know from the outset  
that they couldn’t possibly 
return by the same route.  

Rationally, of course, they couldn’t. 
But who of us is thinking rationally
when we’re following a vision of the future 
as distant and unknowable as a star?  

I want to be like the Magi, the ones  
we hear about in this story.  
Yet all too often, I am one of the  
not-so-wise, the ones who see  
the light, who experience the joy, 
but whose head overtakes the heart, 
coming up with a thousand reasons  
not to set out, but rather, to stay. 

So tonight, spurred on by the Magi, 
and in your company too,  
knowing that 
all begins in joy, 
and to joy all shall return.  

in the shadow of all that darkens our world 

I wonder—star of wonder, star of light—  
how we might embrace  
the radiance the Magi saw 
the radiance the Magi followed 
the radiance the Magi experienced 
the radiance that sent them home  
by a new way 

I wonder: how might we embrace  
radiance in the midst of our encounters  
with darkness, devastation, and death, 

How might we seek after life  
and in so doing, and against all the odds,  
return to joy?