Epiphany - Jan 6: Homilies and Stories


EPIPHANY SUNDAY-JANUARY 6

Story: A husband asked his wife, "Why would God give the wise men a star to guide them?" She replied, "Because God knows men are too proud to ask directions."

"When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, heal the broken, feed the hungry, rebuild the nations, bring peace among people, make music in the heart." So wrote Howard Thurman.
 
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As we give our insignificant, little gifts to God, the good news is that God accepts them! Like the Magi offering their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, we offer what we have, from the heart, in response to what that Child has given to us - himself.
Let us conclude with a 19th century English carol, Christina Rosetti’s A Christmas Carol, which begins, “In the bleak midwinter.” The carol sums up, in its last stanza, the nature of "giving to the Christ child.”
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I could give a Lamb.
If I were a wise man, I could do my part.
What I can I give Him?  Give Him my heart!”

John Littleton

Gospel Reflection 

For many Christians, the Feast of the Epiphany (which is also known as Little Christmas in Ireland) marks the end of the Christmas season. Yet the Epiphany is at the heart of the Christmas message. The word ‘epiphany’ means ‘manifestation’ or ‘showing’. Fundamentally, the Christian vocation is to show Jesus and his glory to the world. The Epiphany acknowledges that Jesus Christ, the new born baby, is the Saviour of all people.

During the Christmas season, we reflect on what it means to believe that the Word became flesh and lived among us. God has chosen to live among us, hh people, in the person of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who saves us from the justly deserved consequences of our sins.
This is why we celebrate Christmas. All other activities associated with Christmas — for example, the exchange of gifts, the holidays from school and work. the visits to family and friends — are secondary. The real wonder of Christmas is not just that God became human in and through his Son, Jesus Christ, but this Christ, through his Church, continues to be present in our world.

Christmas and the Epiphany challenge us to renew our appreciation of the commitment God has made to us by becoming human. In the person and life of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, God has demonstrated beyond all doubt how much he loves us and shares his life with us. God shares his life with us especially through the Church and the sacraments. In the person and life of Jesus Christ, God has embraced human nature completely and he has become one with it. This is the mystery of Christmas and it remains true for all time and for all God’s people everywhere.

The Feast of the Epiphany invites us to consider once again the real meaning of Christmas and to respond accordingly. The wise men, in presenting Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, acknowledged him as Saviour of all people. The feast invites us to ask: what gift can we present to Jesus that acknowledges him as our Saviour?

Surely the most appropriate gift is striving to live a life that imitates his teaching and example. Therefore, the Epiphany is an ideal time to reflect on the practice of our Christian faith so that, during the coming year, we will ‘show’ the world the glory of the Saviour who has redeemed us from sin and who gives us life through his Church and the celebration of the sacraments.
 

Michel de Verteuil
General Comments 

In the Christmas story as told by St Luke, the Word made flesh manifests himself to the shepherds; in St Matthew’s version, he manifests himself to the wise men from the East. Although at first sight the two stories seem different, they are in fact basically alike – as you will discover when you meditate on each passage – since there is only one God and he has one way of relating with us.

For this feast, then, make the journey with the wise men, as you did with the shepherds on Christmas Day and on January 1st.

The story is told in clearly defined stages, and you will find that each of these stages will touch you in your meditation, so that you need not include the entire story  in order to do a good meditation.

Verses 1 and 2 tell us of the journey from “the east” to Jerusalem, and the symbolism of the first searching which takes us some of the way, before we get lost and have to restort to a religious center.

In verses 3 to 9 we have the meeting between the wise men and Herod – very dramatic, and so true to experience. You can read these verses from the point of view of the wise men, so humble and open to learning from religious leaders, even though these have bad motives; or from the point of view of Herod, typical of ourselves when we are in a position of authority and privilege and become insecure at the mere thought of a new religious insight.

In verses 10 and 11 we have the touching story of all moments of grace – the joy of recognition, the sense of homecoming, the simplicity of the presence of God. The mention of the “treasures” is clearly meant to convey the arrival of other cultures doing homage to Jesus.

Verse 12 is very significant, indicating the new-found freedom of the believers. 

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 Homily Notes

1) The Journey

Something monumental was taking place. Pagans, magi, who studied stars and were convinced that stars told a story to men, saw a new star. They had never seen a new star before. Stars told them about the world. This new star was telling them that the world was being renewed. Great heros, great people had stars or were stars, or even constellations looking down on men. This new star had to belong to the greatest of people. It was looking down on any who would be willing to learn its message. The star was moving towards the west.  So the magi set off from their lands in the East on a journey.  Did any of them wonder if they would be able to complete the journey? We don’t know, but we do know that they and their retinues traveled together. Perhaps they were supporting each other in their determination to complete the journey. They were convinced that the star they saw was announced a new king who would be the King of Kings had been born somewhere in the land of the Hebrews. So they went to Herod’s Court.  They did not find the King there, but they did learn that the Jews once had a prophet named Micah who said that the ruler of the people would come from Bethlehem. Sure enough, the star was going in the direction of Bethlehem, leading them to the place, the house scripture says,  where Mary, Joseph and the baby were. When they left the Holy Family, they were pleased not just that they had found the King, but that they made the journey.

Twenty hikers gathered early in the morning at the trail head outside of Brekinridge, Colorado, waiting for the guide. On their way they had seen the top of the mountain, Mt Quandary, but now they were too close to see anything other than the trail and the forest. The hikers were between 16 and 55, all in fairly good shape. They were from the East, New York to be exact, and knew very little about hiking up a 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado. So they hired a park ranger on his day off to guide them. At first they started off with a brisk pace, full of enthusiasm, but an hour into the hike most were panting from the effort as well as the altitude. Some weren’t sure they could make it to the top, but they supported each other, encouraged each other, and kept following the guide. Then they crossed the tree line and could see the bald head of the Quandary summit. More encouragement was needed for even the strongest of them, but they continued the journey to its conclusion. They stood on the peak and could see most of the Eastern Colorado Rockies. There was Mount Evans. And when they looked carefully to the south, they saw Pike’s Peak. It was beautiful. They left very happy, not just from what they saw, but for how they completed the journey. Sure, they could have paid a lot of money and hired a small plane or a helicopter to take them through the Rockies.  But that wouldn’t be the same. They would never have appreciated the peaks if they had not undertaken the hike, the journey.

We are all on the journey of life. Like the magi, we have a sense of where we need to go, but we cannot see the destination.  Like the hikers, we know the peak is up there somewhere, but we cannot see it.

We have a guide. It is not a star. It is not a Park Ranger.   Our guide is Jesus who leads us in the direction our lives need to travel. But the journey is difficult. Sometimes we want to quit. Sometimes we are exhausted. But like the hikers in Colorado, we encourage each other, we support each other. And the Christian community, our Church community, helps us complete the journey.  What is it that we will find when the journey is over? Will it be a baby?  Will it be the summit of a mountain? We don’t know, other than whatever we come to, it will be beautiful. You see, we are journey with Christ to the Father. We are journeying to the One whom the philosophers called the culmination of All Truth, All Goodness and All Beauty. We are journeying with Christ to heaven.

The journey itself is wonderful. For during the journey of our lives we continually come upon new experiences of God.  Sometimes we experience Him in the wonders of His Creation, in the woods, the mountains, the oceans, the lakes. Sometimes we experience Him in the wonders of His people, those who care for others, those who radiate the Kindness of the Kind One, those who are on fire with His Love.  And sometimes we experience Him within ourselves. “Were not our hearts on burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?”the disciples on the road to Emmaus exclaimed when in Luke 24 they realized they were walking with Jesus. “Were not our hearts on fire when we knelt before the Blessed Sacrament during the retreat, during the Mass, during Adoration?”many of us could add.

The goal is wonderful whether it be a newborn King, the summit of a mountain, or the glory of heaven. But the journey itself is amazing.

We walk together with the Lord as our guide. One of us here, another one there, gasps, “I can’t make it.” But we wont let them quit. And we have absolute trust that they wouldn’t let us quit either, for the Christian community demands our care for each other.  We need to complete the journey as the One Body of Christ. And we care for all we meet on the road of our lives. This Teen reaching out for help, that elderly man needing company, that poor man needing food, those children in Africa needing medicine, all are on the journey of life with us. The Lord places many people in our company. Caring for them is essential if we are to complete the Journey He has set for us.

May I walk with you? Will you walk with me? We need each other. We have to begin now, our guide is calling us to follow Him up the path.

In 1857, John Henry Hopkins wrote a Christmas carol for the Epiphany. Perhaps he was only writing about the magi. Or perhaps he was writing about our journey:

Star of wonder, star of night! Star of royal beauty brightwestward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy Perfect Light.

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2) They Found the Lord

The Solemnity of the Epiphany is God’s showing or revelation of His Son to the world.  Traditionally, this revelation is seen as taking place in three incidents in scripture: the journey of the Magi or Wise Men, the Baptism of Jesus by John, and the changing of water into wine at Cana, the first public miracle.  In the Catholic Church, we emphasize the first aspect this week, the magi, and the second Epiphany next week, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  The third Epiphany, Cana, is only presented every third year on the week after the Baptism.

Today we meet Seekers.  The Magi, Wise Men, Kings, whatever name you wish to give them, were seekers.  They were pagans, but they were committed to finding the truth.  “The truth will set you free,” St. Paul would later say.  The truth freed them from paganism.  The searched for the truth and they found Jesus, they found the truth, Truth Incarnate.

Seekers for truth demand our respect.  Many times people will come into the rectory and ask about the faith simply looking for harmony in a chaotic world.  Many times people will ask you about your faith not in a challenging way, but trying to understand why the Mass, why the Eucharist is so important to you.  I am sure you treat them with great respect.  Like the wise men, they are open to journeying from their predispositions to finding a new understanding of truth.

All of us, though, must be seekers of truth throughout our lives.  None of us have completed the journey that God has set aside for us in our lives.  When we are open to his grace, we continually grow in the knowledge of his truth.

I am a bit uncomfortable with people who claim not to be seekers but to be finders.  I have to tell you that the expression “I have found the Lord,” does give me some cause for concern.   Perhaps some of you might feel the same way.  Perhaps some of you might also feel uncomfortable associating with people who seem so much spiritually superior to you.

The problem I have is very often I come upon people who proclaim, "I have found the Lord," and then go on to be uncharitable and intolerant of those who have not had an experience similar to their experience.

Thomas O’Loughlin
 
1. This feast cannot escape the links with the colourful exotic figures in the crib and their gifts. However, the task of the preacher is to draw attention to those aspects of the mystery of the incarnation that Matthew wished to highlight by introducing the story of the eastern visitors into his infancy narra­tive.

2. In a nutshell, the infancy narratives in both Luke and Matthew should be seen as ‘identity cards’: they tell us about who Jesus is, before we hear anything about what he did. But they approach the question of identity using the forms of his­torical narrative rather than abstract theological categories. Once this is stated then each of the episodes within these nar­ratives, such as the visit of the magi, must be seen as express­ing various aspects of the mysterious identity of the Anointed One. So what does this story tell us about Jesus and our faith in him?

3. That Jesus was the one for whom Israel waited over the gen­erations of promise was established by Matthew at the very beginning of his gospel in the genealogy. However, there was also a strand of messianic faith that the Christ would not only bring salvation to Israel, but to all ‘the nations’, the whole of humanity. We find this faith in the oracle in Zechariah: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (8:23). Now with the arrival of these magi, representatives of the nations, this prophecy is fulfilled and one more aspect of the nature of Jesus is revealed. Jesus is the one who is awaited by all nations.

4. The message of the Christians is that God has sent us his Son in Jesus Christ; today we rejoice that this mystery of God­-with-us is not something that is confined to a select few, but something that is for all humanity.

5. Matthew is careful to show that while God reveals the Anointed One’s coming by a star, it is also something that comes through the magi’s own deep searching. In this Matthew’s gospel is very different from Luke’s gospel where the angel tells the shepherds who has come and what it means and what to do, and then they do it. In Matthew we have professional searchers who realise that there is a greater mystery beyond their present conditions and then set out to find it. They follow the evidence, they at first come to the wrong conclusion when they go to Herod’s court, and the truth only becomes dear when they find themselves in the presence of Jesus. The Christ, and his gospel, is thus seen as the fulfillment of human longings and of the human search for the truth – not as something imposed on humanity from outside that is destructive of human desires and creativity. Alas, we Christians often present the gospel in just such a negative way.

6. To celebrate this feast is to rejoice that God’s love has become available to us and that that love invites a response from us: to offer to Truth himself all our human talents.

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Prayer Reflection

Lord, there comes a point in our lives when we finally discover
what we want to give our whole lives to:
* a cause like racial equality, community development, women’s rights;
* a spirituality which combines union with God and social involvement;
* the religious life or the priesthood;
* contemplative prayer.
We look back on the long journey that brought us to this point,
from the time we knew in some vague way that we wanted to change our ways
- like the wise men seeing a star as it rose and deciding to follow it.
Then, as it always seems to happen on a spiritual journey,
we lost sight of the star and drifted aimlessly for some years,
until we realized that the only sensible thing to do was to get help.
So we went to our religious leaders,
and though they were rather confused themselves,
they put us back on the right track and the old enthusiasm returned.
The last part of the journey went quickly:
suddenly we knew that we had found what we had been looking for,
and it was like coming home, so that we went into the house,
fell on our knees and opened our treasures.
Thank you, Lord, for guiding us every part of the way.

Lord, it is strange how we become attached to positions of privilege
* as parents or teachers;
* occupying  a position in the Church;
* accepted as one of the better educated members of our little circle.
When people come forward who are from a different background,
or who are asking new questions,
we are perturbed, as Herod was when the wise men came to Jerusalem.
We reflect on what to say, and may even give them good advice,
but deep down our main concern is
that we should continue to feel secure where we are.
No wonder those whom we help do not come back to us
but return to their country by a different way.

Lord, for many centuries now the Church has been European.
We thank you that in our day people of other cultures are looking for Jesus
because they  have seen a star out in the east.
Naturally, we are perturbed by all these foreigners,
and so is the whole of Jerusalem, for they will bring changes to the whole Church,
and we will lose our special status.
So, though we give them the right instructions,
we tell them that once they  have discovered Jesus
they must come back and tell us exactly what they  have found.
But you are guiding them, Lord, and when they come to Jesus
they will open the treasures of their own cultures.
Furthermore, you will reveal to them that there is no need to come back to us,
and they will make their own way home.

Lord, we sometimes think that we must spend plenty of money
to make Jesus more attractive, or that we must be very learned
so that our preaching of him can draw many to him.
But wise men are looking for an infant king,
and the Scriptures say that he will come from Bethlehem,
the least among the leaders of Judah,
because people are tired of great kings who dominate them.
But if they go into a simple house and see the child Jesus with his mother Mary,
even as they fall on their knees and do him homage
they will feel comfortable to open their treasures
and offer him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Lord, we look today for instant results and for the “quick fix” in all things,
so that we end up looking for instant spiritual growth as well.
But before we can see Jesus and fall on our knees and do him homage
we have to make a long journey from the east.
We have to follow a star, lose it and discover it again many times,
until finally it halts over the place where he is.
 

ILLUSTRATIONS:

1. I want to start this morning by taking a short poll. First: How many of you still have your Christmas Tree up? Second: What do you have on the top of your Christmas tree, a star or an angel. How many of you have stars on top of your tree? How many of you have angels?

The reason I asked the first question is: Christmas, from the Christian perspective isn't truly over until January 6th or Epiphany, the day we traditionally celebrate the visit by the Wise Men. The reason I asked the second question is: I think there are two types of people. Some are star people and some are angel people.  

Biblically, the Angel represents those who had been waiting for the Messiah, for a sign from God, for a long time, like the Shepherds. They knew what the Angel meant when he told them about a Savior, a Messiah. They remembered the old prophecies. They remembered with anticipation.

And the Star was for those who were still searching, those still unsure, those still with questions, those on a quest to find out about this mystery and message from God wrapped up in human flesh and swaddling clothes.

A friend reminded me that God sent both the Angel and the Star because God always meets us where we are... 

Never leave dry dog food or cat food outside overnight. If you do, chances are that sooner or later something other than your furry family member will amble up to help themselves. 
One of the most startling creatures to belly-up to the kibble buffet is the opossum. 'Possums aren't particularly dangerous to humans (unless they are rabid). But they have mastered the art of looking scary. Flick on the porch light and catch a possum snout down in the dog's bowl and you will be rewarded with glowing red eyes, snarling sharp teeth, grisly growling, and a horrible hissing sound. Not to mention the fact that a possum looks a whole lot like a huge, giant rat. It's actually a marsupial, more related to a kangaroo or a koala bear. Opossums are to koala bears what raccoons are to red panda bears. But after one nighttime encounter with a startled opossum, you'll think "Rat."  

But if you step slowly outside to confront the critter, instead of rushing it and leaving it feeling cornered, the possum is far more likely to suddenly shift from scary to supine. The phrase, "playing possum" comes from the very real defensive technique possum's employ when they are confronted by a larger opponent. They fall over, go stiff, and for all the world, look as dead as a doornail. The possum's strategy is that if they look like they are dead and gone, then their enemy will give them a sniff or two and then leave them there to rot. When the danger - whether a person, a dog, a cat, or a car - has passed, the possum miraculously comes back to life and trundles off - after finishing the remainder of Fido's food, of course.

"Playing possum" is a trait human's have mastered as well... 
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2. Where Are You Looking for God?

We begin with a story from a collection of the lives of saints - the saints of Islam - which concerns a king of Balkh (now northern Afghanistan), named Ebrahim ibn Adam. Ebrahim was wealthy according to every earthly measure. At the same time, however, he sincerely and restlessly strove to be wealthy spiritually as well.
"One night the king was roused from sleep by a fearful stumping on the roof above his bed. Alarmed, he shouted: 'Who's there?' 'A friend,' came the reply from the roof. 'I've lost my camel.' Perturbed by such stupidity, Ebrahim screamed: 'You fool! Are you looking for a camel on the roof?' 'You fool!' the voice from the roof answered. 'Are you looking for God in silk clothing, and lying on a golden bed?' The story goes on, according to Jesuit theologian Walter G. Burghardt, to tell how these simple words filled the king with such terror that he arose from his sleep to become a most remarkable saint (Still Proclaiming your Wonders: Homilies for the Eighties [New York: Paulist Press, 1984], 55).

The camel on the roof raises the Epiphany question, Where are you looking for God? This compelling question of life properly stands at the beginning of a new year, just as Where have you found God? nicely serves as a question to cap a year's closing.

Leonard Sweet 
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3. The Parable of the Birds

Do you remember Louis Cassels' famous parable of the birds? It was Christmas Eve and the man's wife and children were getting ready to go to church. He wasn't going. "I simply can't understand what Christmas is all about, this claim that God became man," he told his wife.

It had been snowing all day and it was beginning to snow harder as the man's family rode off to church without him. He drew a chair up to the fireplace and began to read his newspaper.

A few minutes later, there was a thudding sound at the kitchen window. When he went to investigate, he found a flock of birds out in the back yard. They had been caught in the storm, and in a desperate search for shelter, were trying to fly through the kitchen window. He was a very kind man so he tried to think of something he could do so the birds wouldn't freeze. "The barn!" he thought. That would be a nice shelter.

He put on his coat and overshoes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn and opened the door wide and turned on the light. But the birds didn't come in. Food will bring them in he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail to the barn.

But the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around waving his arms. They scattered in every direction except into the warm, lighted barn. "They find me a strange and terrifying creature," he said to himself, "and I can't seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me."
Puzzled and dismayed, he pondered this thought, "If only I could be a bird myself for the moment, perhaps I could lead them to safety." If only I could be a bird myself . . .
Just then the church bells began to ring, pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. The man stood silently for a minute, then sank to his knees in the snow.
"Now I understand," he whispered as he lifted his gaze to the sky. "Now I see why You had to become man."

 Louis Cassels, The Parable of the Birds
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4. How Do We Hold onto the Feeling? 

Just a few days later, the needles are falling, the poinsettias are drooping, and the cookies are stale. How do we hold onto the feeling? How do we hold onto the warmth, the wonder, the welcome of Christmas?

* Christmas letters - offering graceful glimpses of old friends;
* That rare mother/daughter afternoon, creating the most perfect Christmas of our lives;
* American soldiers sharing Christmas with war-scarred children;
* Virginia neighbors sharing love with a Pentagon widow;
* A Christmas pageant, so full of joy and giggles and energy, that I know God was smiling;
* A rippling harp lifting human voices to heaven;
* That sea of candles, shimmering with hope and memory, in the dark womb of this sanctuary.

Yes, my friends, if we try, we can hold onto the feelings, the images, the memories. But we will need to struggle to let this fresh incarnation, this tangible, touchable God carry us through the rest of the year. For the way things really are has already come crashing down upon us. This morning, before the baby has even digested his first decent meal, the gospel writer has us running - fleeing from danger and death and despair. Yes, Matthew forces us to deal with the rest of the Christmas story. And the reality is that the incarnation of good, of God, leads quickly to the incarnation of evil - not only 2,000 years ago, but today, here, now. 

Susan R. Andrews 
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 5. Letting Go of Treasures 

Giving with a glad and generous heart has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money or some other treasure does something within us. That something is it destroys the demon, greed."
Richard Foster
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 6. As Long As There Is Hope

A few years ago the psychology department of Duke University carried on an interesting experiment. They wanted to see how long rats could swim. In one container they placed a rat for whom there was no possibility of escape. He swam a few moments and then ducked his head to drown. In the other container they made the hope of escape a possibility for the rat. The rat swam for several hours before finally giving up. The conclusion of the experiment was just the opposite of our common conclusion. We usually say, "As long as there is life, there is hope." The Duke experiment proved, "As long as there is hope, there is life."

Brett Blair
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7. A Legend of the Magi and the True Story 

There is a beautiful old tradition about the star in the East. The story says that when the star had finished its task of directing the wise men to the baby, it fell from the sky and dropped down into the city well of Bethlehem. According to some legend, that star is there to this day, and can sometimes still be seen by those whose hearts are pure and clean. It's a pretty story. It kind of makes you feel warm inside.

There are other legends about this story of the wise men from the east. For instance, how many wise men were there? In the old days in the east, they believed that there were 12 men who made the journey, but now most everyone agrees there were three. One old legend even tells us the names of the three. Melchior was the oldest of the group, with a full beard. He gave the baby the gift of gold. Balthasar also had a beard, but was not as old as Melchior. He presented the gift of myrrh. The youngest of the three was Casper, who had no beard yet, but did present the gift of frankincense to the baby. Yet another legend goes on to tell us that after seeing the baby, the three continued traveling as far as Spain, telling the world the good news about what they had seen. These stories bring the wise men a little more to life, and add some color to the meaning of Christmas. They can also get in the way.

The problem with legends is that sometimes they add color to stories that don't need any additional color. In fact, sometimes legends are so colorful, they are unbelievable, and can end up making the entire story unbelievable as well. Kind of like that star falling in the well. It makes you warm inside. It also makes you wonder.

I am not out to ban legends, but I do think it might be worthwhile to hear the story one more time, the way it was told the first time. I need to hear it anyway, and you are welcome to listen along if you like.

 John B. Jamison
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8. Do It Anyway!

Herod was a power-hungry ruler whose actions reeked of evil. We can't explain his actions, or the actions of anybody else who acts in evil ways.

And despite our best efforts to create an atmosphere of cooperation and kindness, it is unrealistic to think we are going to eliminate from the face of the earth divisive, rude, evil people. Our only choice, unless we want to give in or give up, is to work around the evil. Yes, this is an imperfect world, but that does not relieve us of our responsibility to work for what is good and right. If anything, the evil present in our world only accentuates the need for us to do something.
Someone wrote a short piece about rejecting the nay-sayers and taking the higher road. They titled it "Anyway." Here it is:
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway!
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway!
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway!
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway!
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway!
The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds. Think big anyway!
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for some underdogs anyway!
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway!
People really need help but may attack you if you help them. Help people anyway!
Give the world the best you have and you will get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have any way!
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9. “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” Little Amy was looking through the family album and found a picture of a man sitting behind a cow. All that was visible was the man’s legs and feet. When her photographer uncle who owned a photo studio came to visit her mother, Amy told him, “This is the only picture of my grandfather that we have. So please remove the cow so that I may see what he looked like." It is the same curiosity which led the magi to follow the star of Bethlehem.  A survey was made among school children asking why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next.” The same element of suspense marked the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit was going to take them down next. Today’s readings invite us to have the curiosity of Amy and the school students so that we may discover the ‘epiphany’ of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere.
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10.  An epiphany in the airport. We spot what looks like a mom, a dad, and three teenage daughters. The girls and their mom are each holding a bouquet of roses. We are wondering what the story is. Whom are they expecting? The dad keeps looking at his watch. The mom keeps turning her head to make sure she hears each airport announcement. Finally the door opens. First come the "rushers"--men and women in suits with briefcases and bags over their shoulders, rushing towards phones, bathrooms, and their cars or rent-a-cars. We're still wondering and watching to learn whom this family we've been studying is there to meet. Then out come a young Marine, his wife, and their obviously brand-new baby. The three girls run to the couple and the baby. Then Mom. Dad. Hugs. Kisses. Embraces. "OOPS! The flowers!" But the baby is the center of attention. Each member of the family gets closer and closer to the mother and each opens the bundle in pink to have a first peek at this new life on the planet. We're seeing it from a distance. It's better than the evening news. Then we notice several other smiling people also watching the same scene. There are many other hugging scenes, people meeting people, but this is the big one. We're smiling too. A tear of joy. What wonderful moment we are photographing into our memory. We're thinking, "Family! Children! Grandchildren!" This is what life is all about. We're experiencing an epiphany. Life is filled with them. Praise God! 
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11. The Sunday school teacher asked the first graders, "What gifts did the
wise men bring the Christ Child?" A smart boy replied, "Uh, gold,
Frankenstein and mermaids." "What did the two-year old child Jesus say to the Magi?" Another boy said: "That big animal, that's what I want! I want that camel!"
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12: A little girl and her mother were looking at the Nativity scene. The mother was explaining that the Wise Men were presenting their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn King. The little girl looked in great adoration at the babe in the manger, then turning to her mother, thoughtfully asked, "Why didn’t they bring Him a bed.?"