We all love stories. Sometimes stories are meant simply to entertain us, but stories are also an important means to make sense out of our life. Stories help put our present situation in a larger context. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Messiah that had been promised in a story begun long ago. At Epiphany we see the three kings take their part in the story. In today’s homily, I focus not so much on the story of the kings but, rather, the story told by Isaiah that predicted their arrival centuries earlier.
In the first reading Isaiah is declaring that light is shining on Jerusalem and that the whole world is headed there with treasure. The problem with this is that it appeared not to be true at the time Isaiah spoke it. Jerusalem was a dump. The temple had been destroyed and God’s people were in exile in Babylon. In spite of this, Isaiah prophesies good news. He tells a story about the future, or the present really that they cannot see yet. He brings a message of hope and light to their present darkness.
Many times as a priest I have to do what Isaiah tries to do, to convince people in some present darkness that the light is just around the corner. The devil loves to have us believe the lie that our future is dim and that there is no hope. But this is a lie! How we feel about whatever present situation we are in depends very much on what story we choose to believe. At Christmas we celebrate that God loved us so much that he came in person to save us and will never leave us. Do you realize that’s the story you’re in?
The magi in the gospel today encounter Jesus and then, almost poetically, “return home by another route.” As we encounter Jesus today, what will we do? How we feel about where we’re at and where we’re going depends very much on what story we choose to believe we’re in.