Following the Light into the New Year

On Christmas Day, I gave a short homily reflecting on a Christmas Blessing from the Church of England’s Common Worship resources:

May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ-child
be yours this Christmas.

That blessing works just as well as a prayer for each of us—not only during Christmas but throughout the year. January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, when the church remembers how the three wise kings followed the light of the star to seek out Jesus. But that’s not all we can learn from the wise ones.

Because they knew that King Herod wanted to gather information about Jesus, and to destroy any possible rival to the throne, the three wise kings avoided Herod, went home by a different route, and refused to be part of the king’s designs. The integrity of the magi reminds us that character and integrity do not just show up at the eleventh hour or at the end of a corrupt regime, but much earlier—with each decision we make.

Cheating on a spouse or partner does not just happen in a culminating physical act but begins earlier with flirting and dishonesty. Financial crimes of theft or embezzlement do not just happen with the final exchange of money but with earlier grievances and resentments. We make daily decisions, some small and some large, whether to conspire with evil or to turn from evil.

The Wise Men might have returned to the King, told him half-truths, and then gone on to deny any culpability. Instead, they followed the way of love. Whatever they learned about Jesus in Bethlehem, they seem to have gained a sense of God’s new grace flowing into the world, and the Magi made the conscious decision to be a part of God’s loving purpose.

We will continue to pray for ourselves, our country, our world, and even our enemies. We will pray for our leaders—the ones we eagerly support and the ones for whom we may pray a change of heart, mind, and spirit. Many of us will continue to be politically active, as our situations allow. But all of us can pray the Christmas blessing into the new year, that God might bless us with joy, eagerness, perseverance, obedience, and peace.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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