Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Epiphany, Theophany/Denho (Baptism of Christ)
Volume 7 No. 392 January 5, 2017
IV. Supplement: Epiphany

Epiphany: the Festival of Adoration

by Fr. Mark

Receive the Light

The Epiphany is, in a super-eminent degree, the great liturgical festival of adoration. The Church invites us to receive the radiant light of Christ; the light that shines from His Face; the light that illumines all who approach Him; the light that rises over a world plunged into darkness, giving joy to those who sorrow, hope to those who despair, and truth to those deceived by every manner of idolatry and falsehood.

Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for they light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising. (Isaiah 60:1-3).

Compelled to Adore

When a soul perceives the light of Christ, that soul is compelled to adore. Thus do we hear in the Holy Gospel: "And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him." (Matthew 2:11).

Into the House

There are, if you will, three moments in the grace of adoration. The first of these is the perception of the light. To see the light of Christ one must enter into the house that is the Church; from the outside, it appears, to some, small and, perhaps, confining. But when one enters the house of the Church, one discovers, from within, that it is immensely spacious. The Church is the place of the Divine Hospitality on earth. Not only is their room in the house of the Church for all; there is also pure water for cleansing; oil for the healing of every infirmity; and a banquet made ready with the living Bread come down from heaven, and with the joy-giving chalice of Christ's Precious Blood.

Where Mary is Mother

The house of the Church is Mary's house. Therein she is Mother: Mother, not only of Christ the Head, the Infant nourished at her breast, but also of the members of the Body of Christ, from the least to the greatest, all of whom she draws to her Immaculate Heart. Mary's Virgin Body is the radiant monstrance of the Body of Christ; she holds Him in such a way as to show Him to us. She says to every soul who enters the house of the Church, "Arise, be enlightened, for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee." (Isaiah 60:1).

The Sun of Justice

The light that illumines Mary's house, the house of the Church, shines from the adorable Body of Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. How can one open one's eyes to the radiant Body of Christ, exposed in what Mother Mectilde de Bar called the soleil (sun) of the monstrance, and not see the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Malachy?
"The Sun of justice shall arise, and health — meaning healing and wholeness — in his wings" (Malachy 4:2)

Falling Down

The second moment in the grace of adoration is to fall down as it is written in the Gospel: "and falling down they adored him" (Matthew 2:11). What is this mysterious falling down? It is a response to the brightness of the Light; it is the first movement of one who would adore. To fall down is to attempt to become level with the ground. It is the expression of a profound desire to become very little, very lowly. It is an attempt to say with one's whole body, that one would wish to be able to pour oneself out, to break oneself open, to allow one's essence to be spent to the last molecule, like the precious perfume that flowed from the vase of alabaster, filling the whole house with its fragrance (John 12:3). This is what Mother Mectilde of the Holy Sacrament means when she speaks of anéantissement, and when she makes it the very condition of adoration in spirit and in truth.


The third moment in the grace of adoration is the offering of one's gifts. "And opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh." These three gifts are, in fact, the symbol of the one and only gift that God desires of us: the offering of ourselves. Mother Mectilde tells us that three qualities are necessary if we are to fulfill our vocation to adoration: firstly, our adoration must be perpetual, that is ceaseless; secondly, it must be made "in spirit", that is to say, in a spiritual manner; thirdly, it must be made in truth, that is to say, withholding nothing, surrendering all, reserving no particle of what we would offer God for ourselves. We can see these three qualities represented in the Magi's gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrhh.

The Gold of Perpetuity

The gold represents something of perpetual value, something that has perpetual quality. What, then, does it mean to adore perpetually? Mother Mectilde says, "Our adoration must be perpetual, since it is the same God whom we adore in the Most Holy Sacrament, who is present to us in every place."

Here we can see that Mother Mectilde's doctrine of adoration is, in fact, a profoundly personal and life-giving interpretation of Saint Benedict's Twelfth Degree of Humility in the Holy Rule. For Mother Mectilde, the fullest expression of adoration is humility; and the fullest expression of humility is adoration. For Mother Mectilde, humility and adoration are, in effect, synonymous. The soul who is humble will adore; and the soul who adores will become humble.

Mother Mectilde would have us adore always and everywhere: "in the work of God, in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road, in the field or wherever a monk may be, whether sitting, walking or standing." An adoration that is perpetual is an adoration that rises with every breath that we draw, an adoration marked by the rhythm of every heartbeat.

The Frankincense of Sacrifice in Spirit

Frankincense represents the costly spiritual sacrifice that is adoration; frankincense is the vital essence of the tree that produces it; it is, if you will, the lifeblood of the tree. The tree is slashed, and the precious essence bleeds out of it. One who would adore in spirit must be ready to be stripped and slashed, like the frankincense tree, so as to give the blood of one's very essence in sacrifice. A sacrifice that is measured, and calculated, and weighed, is no sacrifice at all. It cannot be a spiritual sacrifice, that is one worthy of God who created us in His image and likeness to participate in the royal priesthood and in the victimhood of His Son.

The Myrrh of Truth

Myrrh represents adoration in truth. Like frankincense, it is the lifeblood of a tree, of a small thorny tree. When a tree is bled of its essence, one sees it for what it really is. So too, when a soul allows her very essence to be bled out of her in adoration, she is what she is before God. There can be no perseverance in perpetual adoration without this essential bleeding; and without it there can be no sacrifice, no victimhood worthy of the Light that, from the altar, shines before the eyes of the soul.

The Light has shone upon us. We have entered the house: Mary's house, the house that is the Church. We have heard the Word and, now, with the Magi, and with all the men and and women who have ever adored perpetually, and in spirit, and in truth, we have only to fall down, joining our adoration to theirs, and consenting that, by the mystic overshadowing of the Holy Ghost in this Holy Mass, over the oblations of bread, and wine, and of ourselves, our adoration be consecrated in spirit and in truth.

Source: vultus Christi
© 2013-2019 The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle.
All Rights Reserved.

Light in Darkness

by Alan Brehm

Scripture: Matt 2:1-12; Ps. 72; Isa. 60;

We have just completed a season of waiting and preparing ourselves for the coming of God's light into the world. Some might wonder why all the fuss. For them, the world is already a place full of light and joy, full of all they could ever want or desire--family, career, success, prestige. But for many people in our world--in our own communities and neighborhoods, their experience of life in this world is full of darkness. Theirs has been a life of grief and loss, a life of broken dreams and shattered hopes, a life of failure and shame. It is the time of year when there is more darkness than light during the day. But the kind of darkness I'm talking about is a darkness that does not depend on the season of the year or the time of day. It is a darkness that can and does come at any time.

The world into which Jesus was born was full of all kinds of this darkness. Many lived out their lives as slaves of one kind or another. Many lived a kind of virtual slavery, dependent for their daily bread on the arbitrary generosity of those who owned the majority of the land. And the shadow of the Roman Empire was cast over the whole Mediterranean world--a shadow cast by ruthless conquerors who had no conscience about enforcing their will with the edge of a sword and the point of a spear. For many in Jesus' day, there was no hope of anything better.

The Jewish people at least had a hope to sustain them. The prophets sustained that hope for generations. It was the hope that God would bring light into the darkness. It was the hope that God would throw off the yoke of every oppressor and set free all those who lived in unjust captivity. It was the hope that God would restore the people to the land where they could once again thrive by the sweat of their own labor, eating the bread made from grain grown in their own fields and fruit grown on trees in their own groves. When that happened, old and young would live in safety, without fear of either famine or captivity.[2]

It was in Jesus that the early Christians saw the fulfillment of these hopes. They believed that Jesus would be the one to bring the light they longed for. They believed Jesus was the one who would "deliver the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper" (Ps. 72:12).[3] That is why today, the feast of Epiphany, is such an important day in the Christian calendar. It is the day when we commemorate the visit of the magi to the infant Jesus. That story was seen as a literal fulfillment of the prediction that "Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn" (Isa. 60:3). For the early Christians, the visit of the magi was another sign that the light was dawning in the darkness.

But there is something more to the visit of the magi. These men were all pagans, they were heathen gentiles.[4] They had no connection with the Jewish people, their prophets, their hopes or their Messiah. And yet, according to our Gospel lesson for today, they come from afar to "pay homage" to Mary's child (Matt. 2:11).[5] This is important, because from the very beginning, Jesus is worshipped by shepherds and angels, by commoners and royalty, and, perhaps more importantly, by Jews and Gentiles alike.[6] From the very beginning, the light that dawned with the birth of Jesus was a light that shines for all people (Jn. 1:4).

This is one of the reasons why Paul rejoiced so much in his gracious commission to bring to those in darkness "the news of the boundless riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8). Elsewhere Paul could express the good news in this way: "The God who said, 'Out of darkness the light shall shine!' is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). His vision of the revealing of God's light was such that he looked forward to the day when every tongue would confess "Jesus is Lord" to the glory of God (Phil. 2:10-11).[7]

Though we really don't know much what to make of the season of Epiphany, in a very real sense, everything about our faith is a part of the celebration of Epiphany. Literally it means "revealing," it is a taking away of the veil that covers something. Epiphany is about unveiling what Advent promises: that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Lk. 3:6); that "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together" (Isaiah 40:5). During this time of year, we read stories from Jesus' life that show how Jesus revealed that he truly was the light that was coming into the darkness.[8] That's why we celebrate Epiphany--it's a time to remind ourselves that in him a light has dawned that will never go out--a light of faith, and hope, and joy that shines in all the kinds of darkness that can afflict this world.


[2] Cf., for example, John D. W. Watts, Isaiah 34-66, 867-68, where he talks about the restoration envisioned in Isaiah 60. Cf. also Paul D. Hanson, Isaiah 40-66, 218-221, where he describes the adverse conditions that made it a challenge for the people to hold onto that hope.

[3] See. H.- J. Kraus, Psalm 60-150, 81: "The expectations of the prayer for blessing look forward to 'God's deliverer' in whom the 'reign of God' on earth, in the people of God and at the same time among the nations, finds its fulfillment." Cf. also James L. Mays, Psalms, 237: "Saving justice for the helpless is the definitive mark of the reign of God, the sign of the one who represents the lord of all the world." Cf. differently, Marvin E. Tate, Psalm 51-100, 226.

[4] Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew, 13.

[5] Cf. Donald Hagner, Matthew 1-13, 27, 31. Cf. also U. Luz, Matthew 1-7, 115, where although he earlier questions whether we are to see the worship of the magi as a fulfillment of Isa. 60:3, he recognizes that the christological interpretation of the event as a sign that God is with us is prominent.

[6] cf. Luz, Matthew 1-7, 115, where he also points out that this is an important theme in this passage.

[7] cf. Hare, Matthew, 13, where he says, "When the visitors come into the presence of Mary's child they do obeisance to him, unwittingly anticipating that day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11)."

[8] This is a theme in Jürgen Moltmann's theology. He says that when the glory of God is revealed over all the earth, all humankind and all creation will be drawn into "the life stream of the triune God," where they experience "boundless freedom, exuberant joy, and inexhaustible love," which is what God intended for creation in the first place. See Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom, 124, 126, 161, 178, 212, 222. Cf. also Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation, 183-84; Jürgen Moltmann, In the End - The Beginning, 145.

© 2012 Alan Brehm.

Exploding Light

by Edward F. Markquart, Seattle, Washington

Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

Today is Epiphany Sunday in the life of our congregation. All the readings point to the star, the guiding light of Jesus Christ.

We hear the Scriptures for Epiphany. From Isaiah 60:

"Arise, shine, your light has come. Those of you who walk in darkness, your light has come." In addition, we hear the same theme expressed in I John 1:5, "God is light and in God, there is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with God and the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin." From the creation story in Genesis 1, "God said, let there be light and suddenly there was light. God saw that is was good and that pleased God. God went ooooohhh and aaaaaahhh. God separated the light from the darkness and called the light, day, and the darkness night, and there was evening and there was morning and that was the first day."

I would like you to imagine yourself in a black room, in a very black room, in a totally dark room, where the light is all darkened out. A closet is too small but you have the right idea. We need a bigger room than a closet. Perhaps a basement of a large office building, a basement with no windows and when the lights are out, it is pitch black. No, we need a room bigger than that. We need the Kingdome in downtown Seattle, the Kingdome before it was destroyed. Imagine yourself in the Kingdome, and it is totally black. There are no exit signs. No lights from anyplace. Total darkness. It is dark and quiet and you can't even see the palm of your hand. All of a sudden you hear a "boom" and there is a gorgeous fireworks explosion overhead. It is magnificently beautiful and the whole crowd goes ooooooooh…aaaaaaaaahh.

That was the mood of God a long time ago at the beginning of time when there was no light. It was only darkness. The entire universe was totally black. God was sitting there in that black, dark universe. God looked at the whole world; it was dark; and God was silent. Suddenly, an idea exploded in the mind of God and there was an explosion of light and sparkles and God went oooooooohhh….aaaaaah. All those little sparkles stopped in the sky and they became the stars and when God saw the stars, God said ooooooooohhhh….ahhhhhhh. That is beautiful. Good job.

Why is it that every Fourth of July, when you are outside someplace near Puget Sound, in Des Moines or Seattle or Tacoma or anywhere else, you are watching and waiting for the fireworks to begin. You are listening to the firecrackers and laughing and smiling. Then, suddenly, the show begins and a rocket flies up into the air, and it explodes with effervescent light, and the whole crowd goes oooooooohhhhh…ahhhhhh. The crowd reacts the same all around the globe. In every nation and every nationality, all around the globe, they have firework displays and the crowd always reacts the same to the colorful explosion in the sky. …ooooohhhh….aaaaaahhhh. Why? What is that?

I would like to suggest to you that all human beings are made in the image of God. We are like God. God is light and in God, there is no darkness at all. Because the spark or light of God is in each and every person, when we see exploding lights in the sky, we all go ooooooohhhh….ahhhhhh. All human beings react positively and appreciatively to light because we are made in the image of God; we are like God who is light itself and the light itself is in all of us.

Let me prove my case with examples. Let us take a six-month old baby and place that baby in front of a Christmas tree. The baby doesn't do anything. But if you plug in that Christmas tree and all the lights go on, the baby's eyes just sparkle and light up and the baby's eyes go oooooooohhhh and aaaaaaahhhh. Why do all babies around the globe respond the same way to light? What is it about human beings that we are so fascinated with and attracted to light? … Now that baby grows up a bit and is now six years old and you have an Advent wreath at your house. You have four candles on the Advent wreath on the table and the child barely notices the wreath. But if you light the candles and there are four flickering flames on the table, the child's eyes are bright and alert and watching. The unlighted candle is dead to the child's eye, but strike a light and the eyes light up. Why? Why do all children throughout the world react the same? … The six year old grows up and is soon sixteen and is out cruising one night with his girlfriend. He parks his car on a country road, turns off the engine, listens to the night air and looks up into the full, harvest moon. The young man looks at the moon and then the moonlight in her hair and he goes ooooooooohhhh….ahhhhhhh. It happens all over the world where there are cars, dark roads and full moons. Why do we love the moonlight? Why do we ooooh and aaaaaah when we see full moons? … The sixteen year old becomes twenty-six, gets married; has a baby and the baby is soon six months old. The young parents plug in the lights of their first Christmas tree. With their new baby, they all are mesmerized by the beauty of the lights. Why? Why is it that all human beings are fascinated by lights? … It is because we are made in the image of God. God is light. In God, there is no darkness at all. The divine spark of God is in all people; God's light is in all people; and therefore all people love and are attracted to light. It is very simple.

The negative corollary is also true. Because we are made in the image of God and because we naturally are attracted to light, that means we don't like dark or darkness. We are not attracted to dark spaces and places. A prolonged sense of darkness makes us depressed. Sometimes we are actually afraid of the dark and don't admit it. For example, up in Trondsou, Norway, it is very dark. This town is located in the northern reaches of Norway. The sun disappears on November 25th and does not reappear until January 21st. For two months, the sun disappears. On November 25th, the day the sun leaves, do you think they have a big celebration? They don't like the day and its darkness. The first thing they do is decorate all the windows with artificial light. They have lights all around their windows in their houses, trying to drive the darkness away. In that city, there is much depression and much suicide. … I have another question: do you like getting up early in the morning at this time of year and seeing how dark it is outside? No, not at all. You don't like the darkness of the morning; nobody does. When it is dark, dismal and raining outside, you don't say, "What a lovely day we have here." … Another example. Why are most little children afraid of the dark? If you are a child and you walk into the dark house, you often let your mother and father go in first so they can turn on the lights. You often turn on the lights to make sure that there are no robbers and around. … Or, if you come into the church late at night and alone, when there are no lights on, the church can be scary. The old sanctuary creaked and groaned and made night noises that you heard clearly if you were all alone in the dark. … What I am suggesting to you is that we need to understand human beings, and we human beings are like God. God is light and we have a natural predisposition to enjoy light. The spark of God is in us and therefore we react and respond positively to the sparkles of light in the world. And we don't like darkness at all.

It is with this mood that we approach the Old Testament lesson for today. In Isaiah, God said, "Those who walk in darkness, arise. Shine. Your light has already come. The glorious presence of God is already upon you."

What is the background of this passage that invites us to rise and shine?

This passage was written by Isaiah, and people like me call him Third Isaiah. This passage is from Isaiah, the third section of the book, chapter 60, towards the end of the scroll, and the people of God had just returned from their prisoner of war camps. They Jews had just come back to the Promised Land, back to Jerusalem, back to their old farms and houses after many decades in exile. What were the peoples' feelings? Let me tell you, they were depressed. You would have been depressed too if you had seen their homes, farms, and country when they came back. Everything had been gutted by war. … How would you have felt if you came back to Hamburg, Germany after World War II and all your cathedrals and homes and factories had been bombed out and all that could be seen was rubble. … When these Jews came back to Israel after the prisoner of war camps, their farms were rubble, their cities were rubble, their businesses were rubble, their sons had been killed, their husbands eliminated. And everybody was depressed.

Into that depressing situation of the aftermath of war, the prophet Isaiah wrote: "Those of you who walk in darkness, Rise. Shine. Get up. Get going. Your light has already come. God's light is already shining upon you." He said, "Lift up your heads." I love that line. Those of you who have your chins down, lift them up. Those of you who have closed your eyes, open them up. Those of you who are wallowing in depression, wake up and get up. Your light has already come.

These uplifting words were not written during the time of Father Abraham who had all those wives, all those concubines, all those kids, all that cattle, and all those sheep. Things were going well for Father Abraham, and so he heard the words, "Rise, shine, get up and get going and it will get ever better for you." No. Nor were these words written during the time of King David who was a military hero. "Rise and shine David, and you will win even more military battles." Nor were these words spoken to King Solomon who had more riches and wealth than the world had ever seen. "Rise, shine, Solomon, and you will get even richer."

No. These words were written to people who were very depressed by what life had given them. These words were for people who felt like quitting, who felt like giving up, who felt like tossing in the towel.

What do these words of God have to do with us some three thousand years later? Three thousand years later is a long, long time. Can such old words have any relevance for us some three thousand years later? Yes, of course.

All people in the world go through periods of depression. There are no exceptions. I don't know anyone who hasn't lived with depression or depressing times. Even children go through periods of depression. I remember the old Charlie Brown cartoon where Charlie put out the sign that said, "Psychiatrist, 5 cents." Lucy came to see Charlie, paid her five cents, and said she was depressed. She said to Charlie, "I want to go from an up to an upper up, from an upper up to an uppity upper up." Lucy wanted life to always go up, but life is never like that for very long. Life goes up and down and down and up. We all have ups and downs, and when the world is down for us and very difficult, approaching depression or having crossed that line, we hear the words of Isaiah, "Rise, shine. Your light has already come. God's glorious presence is already shining above you."

You may be so depressed that say to God, "I don't feel like getting up. I don't feel like rising. I don't feel like going." The Lord then puts his hands under your arms and starts lifting you up as you hear the other words from Isaiah, "Are my arms so short that I cannot help you and lift you up?" God begins to lift us up and then again says to us, "Rise. Shine. Your light has already come. The glory of God is all around you."

What are some of those circumstances that depress us? What are those circumstances that make up feel like giving up, quitting, or tossing in the towel? The loss of a spouse. If you lose a husband or wife, you are depressed for longer than you think you will be. The loss of a child. Several of you have lost children and nothing hurts as deeply as that. The loss of a marriage. When marriages gradually die, it is always difficult for everyone, the husband, the wife, the children. The loss of health. I now know that one. It happens so suddenly and life plans change immediately when faced with serious illness or death. The loss of job. Several of you have lost your job and that is tough on the family finances and the personal ego. The loss of home. I read some years back that the number one cause of depression in women was being forced to move against their desires. The loss of self-esteem. People actually feel suicidal when they lose their self-esteem for any reason. The loss of a girlfriend, a boyfriend, the list goes on and on. …Now, all of us experience a variety of depressions. All of us do.

Does God leave us to live in our depression, however justified? When the Jewish cities were in rubble and their homes were in rubble and their farms were in rubble and their temple was in rubble and their lives were in rubble, into that situation where they were justified being depressed, God said to his people, "Rise, shine, your light has already come. Lift up your chin. Open your eyes. Stand up on your legs." The purpose of God's words are to get us moving, to get us going, to get us standing again and not to wallow in our depression that all of us experience at different times of our lives.

What does it mean when God says, "Rise. Shine. Your light has already come. The glory of God is already shining above you?" What does all that mean?

The most obvious is that God's spark is already in you. When you were created in the first place, God put his divine light into you. We don't understand how it got there, but you have God's light inside of you. Why do you like the lights on the Christmas tree? What do you like to see a star filled sky? Why do you enjoy a full moon? The divine spark of God is already in you. Just about the time you feel like committing suicide and tossing in the towel, there is something inside of you that says, "Get up. Get going. Do not jump. Do not quit." That something is the spark of God, the light of God, the divine presence of God, the energy of God that God put into you before you were born. That is the way you are wired.

But there is more than that. What does it mean that God is in you, is around you and above you? Jesus Christ is the light who guides our feet as we walk on the paths of life. Christ is our light, our guide. He guides us in our decisions. We all have big decisions and little decisions; we all come to little forks in the road and big forks in the road, and we ask God, "What shall we do? What way shall we go?" Pray that prayer, asking God for guidance and God will answer that prayer and give you guidance.

Also, light is the source of energy. You wouldn't have energy without the sun. Energy comes from that light. Spiritual and emotional energy comes from the Son as well, the Son of God. The very light that is inside of you, helping you to stand up is the same light that is above you, giving you energy. And so you have the energy of God inside of you and the energy of God above you, for God is light and light is energy.

To all of us this day and the rest of the days of our lives, God says, "Rise. Shine. Your light has already come. My light lives within you. My light is above you. My light is guidance. My light is energy. Get up. Get going. Your light has already come." Amen.

Wise Men Still Seek Him

By Dr. Tim Clinton

"If you're sincerely seeking God, God will make His existence evident to you."
William Lane Craig

A manger. The baby Jesus. Mary. Joseph. A star.

No Christmas play would be complete without the three wise men.

Matthew records the amazing story of the "Magi" who "after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…arrived in Jerusalem…" (2:1 NASV) They asked, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him."

Bible scholars agree that these wise men may have traveled upwards of 800 miles - a journey that could have taken anywhere from several months, to 2 years. They believed the prophets who wrote "And you Bethlehem, land of Judah…out of you shall come forth a Ruler, who will Shepherd my people Israel." (Matthew 2:6 NASV)

What's interesting is that after the wise men's interaction with Herod, Matthew makes a point to tell us that the "star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was." (Matthew 2:9 NASV)

The phrase "went before them" in the original Greek actually means to "lead by going ahead of." There was no "trying to find" the Christ child. No going house to house making inquiry. The star simply led them to "the house" where they "saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshipped Him…" (Matthew 2:11 NASV)

Throughout the Bible we are admonished to seek the Lord:

"But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul."
(Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV)

"Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!"
(1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV)

"You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, ‘Your face, LORD, do I seek.'"
(Psalm 27:8 ESV)

"Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near." (Isaiah 55:6 ESV)

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13 ESV)

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
(Matthew 6:33 ESV)

If only we had a "star" to go before us and lead the way.

Good news! We do. Jesus promised in John 16 that He would send us a Helper. He called this person the "Spirit of truth" who "guides us into ALL the truth and will "declare to you the things that are to come." (vs. 13 ESV)

Seek the Lord. Not blindly, or haphazardly, but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit - thinking…praying…meditating on His word.

This Christmas remember - wise men still seek Him…every day. Encounter Him. Fall down. Worship Him.

It will turn your life around.

Tim Clinton, Ed. D., LPC, LMFT (The College of William and Mary) is President of the nearly 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), the largest and most diverse Christian counseling association in the world. He is Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care, and Executive Director of the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University. Licensed in Virginia as both a Professional Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist, Tim now spends a majority of his time working with Christian leaders and professional athletes. He is recognized as a world leader in faith and mental health issues and has authored over 20 books including Breakthrough: When to Give In, When to Push Back. Most importantly, Tim has been married 36 years to his wife Julie and together they have two children, Megan, who recently married Ben Allison and is practicing medicine in dermatology, and Zach, who plays baseball at Liberty University. In his free time, you'll find him outdoors or at a game with family and friends.
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Gifts of Magi

by Jill Carattini

I was sold on the genre of tragedy as a child at Christmastime, long before I knew anything about genres or tragedies. Jim Dillingham Young and his wife Della are the subjects of The Gift of the Magi, a short story written by O. Henry in 1906. Struggling to make ends meet in their one room apartment, Jim and Della have but two prized possessions between them: for Jim, a pocket watch given to him by his father, and for Della, her long, beautiful hair, of which it is said that even the queen of Sheba would be envious. When Christmas comes, Jim and Della have nothing to scrape together to buy even a simple gift for the other. Yet, longing to give something meaningful out of great love, each, unbeknownst to the other, sacrifices the greatest treasure of the house; Della sells her hair to buy her husband a silver chain for his beloved pocket watch, and Jim his pocket watch to buy Della pearl combs for her beautiful hair. Thus unfolds The Gift of the Magi and "the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days," writes O. Henry, "let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest."(1)

Some short stories tell giant lessons. For me, this was one of them. In the mind of a child, Jim and Della acted out the ultimate display of love, the kind of love that breaks your heart in a way that somehow makes it feel more whole. For the sake of the other, they released willingly from their hands the very thing they wanted to hold onto the tightest. Could I do that? I wondered. And even as I asked, I saw clearly that there were two questions in the one uttered. Could I give up the thing I want most to hold onto? But also, and maybe even more plaguing, Could I love someone like that? We learn the art of self-protection at a young age, and even then I was childishly aware of it. But sacrificial love, the sacrificial giving of oneself, even when it takes a tragic or ironic turn, knocks at every wall of self-preservation with an invitation: it is terrifying but also pregnant with possibility, an invitation to the destruction of walls, but also to homecoming and to new rooms.

In the Christian account of Christmas, the sacrificial birth of Christ into the world among us brings about some of the loudest knocking ever known to human hearts. The gift of a Son into hands that would harm him presents a most sacrificial gift and a striking invitation to sacrifice everything to have it. As C.S. Lewis writes:

"The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Christ says, 'Give me all. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you—No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent, as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'"(2)

To a groaning world that may not in the least suspect it is groaning for a savior, Christ comes as he came to Mary herself, wanting to stretch us physically, emotionally, and socially, taking away everything: the dark corners of our souls, even all we might have thought good or godly of ourselves—our good names, our good futures, our innocence. Mary certainly had reasons to say "No" to the devastating invitation that came to her by way of terrifying angel. For a young peasant girl, she was facing an assuring future: a husband to wed, a home to create, a good reputation. Saying "Yes" to God and to the words of the angel Gabriel was to put all of this on the line, everything she had and might have once clung to. Could you do the equivalent? Could you release security, love, reputation, or even your youth from your own determined grasp? Mary's risk was no less difficult than the most sacrificial act you could imagine of your own life. Saying "Yes" to the Christ child and to the knocking of his love will surely bring down the houses we have built, even the rooms that house the things we hold onto most fiercely.

Yet this is precisely the invitation the story of Christ leaves before us like a gift: "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."(3) He comes with the annunciation of great sacrifice and pregnant impossibilities, and he curiously assures us not to be afraid. Yet where meek and foolish souls give everything to receive him, they still find themselves the wisest.

About The Author:

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.


(1) O. Henry, 100 Selected Stories (London: Wordsworth, 1995), 5.
(2) C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian (New York: Macmillan, 1984), 179.
(3) Isaiah 9:6.

Source: A Slice of Infinity
Copyright © 2015 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries,
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