Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory (Is 60: 1-2).
Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage (Mt 2:2).
Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of the nations shall be brought to you (Is 60:6).
For no reason other than to honor the newborn king, the magi, upon seeing the star at its rising, stop what they are doing, rise up, and go in search of the baby. Although they don’t know exactly where they are going or what will be asked of them, they answer the call of the star. They even bring perfectly appropriate gifts!
Upon the way, they encounter King Herod. Although Herod also claims a desire to pay the small king homage, secretly, Herod wishes to destroy this new threat to his power. Unlike the magi, Herod is threatened by the light that has entered the world. He remains in the darkness of which Isaiah speaks.
Where do we find ourselves this Epiphany? Do we feel bathed in the light of the star? Is it easy to give glory to God?
Or do we feel more like Herod, hidden in darkness, confused about what this small baby brings or how we are called to respond to him?
As mothers, we are pulled in many directions (quite literally if you have small children around!). It is easy to get bogged down in the many needs around us and miss the glory of the star of Bethlehem.
There is an Italian legend that illustrates this point well. Befana, a cantankerous old woman caught up in keeping a clean house, is awakened one night by the star of Bethlehem’s bright light. A young child following the magi invites Befana to accompany them, but Befana hesitates. Her hesitancy prevents her from seeing Jesus in the flesh, but it does not doom her. Although she hesitates, she still makes the right decision to see the child Jesus. She leaves her safe (and clean!) home and ventures into the unknown to search for Jesus. In this process, her heart is changed. Because she answers the call of the star to seek Jesus and pay him homage, she is not left to wander aimlessly, but is believed to still search for the child Jesus, as she flies around the world delivering treats to children on Epiphany.
During these days of Christmas, perhaps we find ourselves like the magi, able and willing to rise up immediately and follow the light of the star to pay homage to our King. We are excited and inspired; we have our gifts all ready to present to him. But, some days, like Befana, maybe we hesitate. How do I give him homage? How can my life give him glory? What can I offer him?
Our answers to these questions will vary, but as mothers, our call to give glory to God is very often in the small, mundane tasks of washing, cooking, cleaning, comforting, disciplining, and listening. In all of these tasks, and in the hundreds of others that make up our day, we can rise up and give glory to God. We can give glory when we clearly see the light of the star around us, and, through perseverance, we can give glory even when we are in darkness.
May this Epiphany help us to remember, especially in the dark moments, that we are never left alone. The glory of the Lord never fails to shine upon us; his glory will never stop overshadowing us. Someday, like Jerusalem, we will be radiant at what we see, our hearts shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before us, the wealth of the nations shall be brought to us (Is 60:6).