Christmas is “manifesting” Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, 08 January 2023
Isaiah 60:1-6 ><}}}}*> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><}}}}*> Matthew 2:1-12

Still, a blessed Christmas to everyone! As I have been telling you, let us continue greeting one another with a Merry Christmas for it is still the Christmas Season. Forget those happy new year greetings. Insist on Merry Christmas especially today when our celebration reminds us that Christmas is manifesting, showing Jesus Christ!

In fact, our celebration today is a high point of Christmas – even the Christmas in some parts of Europe, the US and even the Philippines. As a result, so much focus have been given on the magi that we forget the very essence of Epiphany is Jesus Christ – not the names of the magi nor their gifts nor their number.

From the Greek word epiphanes that means “manifestation”, the Epiphany of the Lord celebrates the discovery of Jesus by the foreigners known as magi from the East, learned men who were seeking the truth. In discovering Jesus, he was made known to all the world as the Savior and the King of Kings.

It is very interesting that what we have we heard proclaimed in the gospel today is the first conversation ever recorded by Matthew in his account that was uttered by the magi searching for Jesus:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

Matthew 2:1-2

That spoken question by the magi which stirred the whole of Jerusalem and bothered even King Herod – “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? – is a theme that resonates throughout Matthew’s gospel because in the Jewish thought, God is their only king. King for them is more than a political ruler but a manifestation or reflection of the face of God who alone is the king of the universe.

Matthew is teaching us something very important in recording the first conversation spoken in his gospel account was by the magi asking “where is the newborn king of the Jews” to remind us that every day, it is Jesus Christ whom we must seek first in our lives, in our prayers, especially in the scriptures.

Upon waking up in the morning, what is the very first thing you do – check on your cellphone for messages? turn on the radio or TV or laptop? What or who do you look for first thing in the morning? Do you at least light a candle on a little altar in your room to pray the Morning Offering or meditate on the scriptures of the day?

The person(s) or things that we immediately focus upon waking up indicate very much the persons or things that rule us daily. See how the magi from the east were seriously seeking Jesus Christ by daring to ask even King Herod about the newborn king of the Jews! Don’t you find that funny considering that the magi were regarded as men of wisdom but dared to inquire and trouble Herod with that question? Were they insulting Herod?

Definitely not. They were just sincerely searching for the true King of all!

That is the essential point in Matthew’s telling us of the magi searching for Jesus: the experts of Jerusalem knew where their newborn king was born based on the scriptures but they never bothered to look for him! Many times we are guilty like them when God is just in our head as an idea or a concept but not a reality in our life.

Next to assiduously seeking Christ, I love to reflect on that aspect of these wise men asking (with sarcasm?) King Herod where is the newborn king of the Jews: the magi must have noticed and felt King Herod was not a true king after all in the Jewish thought and tradition. They must have heard and personally proven upon meeting him that he was indeed ruthless and evil when he ordered the massacre of all boys two years old and below in Bethlehem and vicinity after they have left by going through a different route.

See how Matthew as well as the other gospel writers showed in their accounts the kindness and goodness of Jesus in healing the sick, forgiving the sinners, teaching and guiding the people who were so lost. When we pray the gospel accounts, what we find and experience is the immense love and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. He is rightly called the face of the unseen God – so gentle, so loving, so humble, so merciful. Because of Jesus, we were able to have a glimpse and experience of the great love of this God Jesus taught us to call as Father. That is why at his crucifixion we saw Jesus hailed as truly the “King of the Jews, truly the Son of God” (Mt. 27:37, 54) because he manifested God’s love and holiness, compassion and mercy, kindness and care.

This is the essence of the Epiphany. It was not just the discovery of Jesus by the magi nor his manifestation to all the nations but most of all, the making known of God’s goodness when like the magi who “departed for their country by another way” (Mt.2:12), we change our ways to become icons of Jesus Christ.

Don’t worry; it is a lifelong process. The magi saw Jesus as a child, not as an infant anymore because of their long journey. What matters is that like them, we never stop persevering in following and manifesting Jesus in our lives.

Perhaps this Sunday, we must examine ourselves in the way we deal with other people especially in our family and in our office or school, especially in our parish and community: do we reflect the Kingship of Jesus Christ or that of the world like Herod in our lives?

This Solemnity of the Epiphany is inviting us not just to seek Christ our King but most of all, to manifest Christ’s Kingship based on loving service to others. That is the best gift we can offer Jesus, our very gift of selves just like him. Let us pray:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
let me search you always in my life,
in my prayers,
among the people I meet,
in the Sacraments;
most of all, 
let me manifest you Jesus
not only my words and thoughts
but most of all in my daily living,
in my actions
of loving service to others
especially the sick and lowly,
the marginalized and misunderstood;
let me be your light, O Lord,
to guide people in darkness of sin
and ignorance and indifference;
most of all, let me reveal like St. Paul
your mystery of love and salvation
to the many among us who have turned
away from you,
seeking to follow and imitate
King Herod in his ruthless ways
of control and too much pride.
Amen.

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