God's Surprising Way

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

January 2nd, 2022 – The Epiphany of the Lord - Matthew 2:1-12

Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.

The curtain parts (or lifts) and the performance begins. We all know the feeling, whether it be for a grand symphony, a sparkling musical, a profound drama or a spectacular movie. Or the Christmas performance by first graders. We sit up in our seats, sharpen our vision, attune our hearing as we await the Grand Beginning of the show. A performance designed to impress us. Give us a thrill.

This Sunday we celebrate what might be called the Grand Beginning of the Life of Jesus. The most important life ever lived on Earth. God taking human form as a human person, an event that should capture the full attention of everyone. Fittingly, it might have been staged as a mighty event before thousands assembled and standing in awe. Maybe a specular cosmic event. A supernova fully visible in the night sky. Or at least, the call, “Let the show begin!” That’s enough about possibilities, especially since nothing like that actually happened.

In contrast to anything even bordering on the spectacular, God appeared (the root meaning of the word “epiphany”) as an ordinary infant, as a baby. First to his mother and foster father, then to a group of ordinary shepherds, and “now” to a small group of philosopher/scientists (the basic meaning of the word, magi) who travelled to see him from the East. From a part of the world known then as a place of disciplined inquiry, philosophical questioning, deeper thought, all that might be known on Earth and in the heavens. Thus, their interest in the stars.

And what or who did they find? A seemingly ordinary infant who was cared for by what appeared to be an ordinary mother and father. Hardly anything unusual. Perhaps upon seeing the Christ child, they said to each other, “Is that all there is? We expected more.”

What they beheld was God’s special way, God’s typical way of doing things. Even very important things, like the birth and the daily life of Jesus. God was showing us what’s truly divine on Earth, what it takes to transform human life from ordinary to sacred. It does not have to be amazing, astonishing or awesome. In fact, it is mostly what is common, unexceptional and every day. Like what Jesus, Mary and Joseph did most of their lives.

So let us again notice how God appeared. And how our lives are like his. That’s the deeper meaning of today’s feast. Ordinary activities of profound importance. Be not deceived by appearances.  

©David M. Thomas, Ph.D.


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