Reflecting on our Advent journey, Christmas and the Octave of Christmas, our minds and hearts enter deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation. The four weeks of Advent that preceded Christmas celebrations prepared us to anticipate and attune our spiritual senses to the gift of joy and sorrow that accompanies our lives.
Preparation for Christmas culturally meant tuning our senses to the people around us, discerning what gifts to get for one another. Amid the Christmas lights and abundance of holiday cheers and commerce, we give presents to those we love and receive in kind. And with the grace of the Epiphany of the Lord fresh in our hearts, we can rejoice, fixing our eyes on the splendor of God’s glory: “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” (Isaiah 60: 1-6).
Like the Magi, who seek the glory of the Lord in the presence of the Child Jesus, we journey in faith to Bethlehem to encounter the gift of life in our midst and give Him homage (Matthew 2: 1-12). This encounter with the Lord of Life allowed the Magi to open their treasures and offer gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Their encounter and exchange of gifts was transformative. They no longer adhered to old ways of doing things, but returned home via new and alternative paths.
For us today, the invitation to journey in faith to Bethlehem includes this deeper desire to also be transformed by the exchange of gifts offered to us in the encounter with the glory of God. Perhaps more than ever, we need to reclaim the place of reverence and the power of homage in our lives. Like the Magi, our lives must also be changed by our encounter with the Child Jesus and find alternative paths to life-giving encounters with one another. We need to seek, anew, the beauty and dignity that is ours in Christ Jesus.
Far from seeing the glory of God in one another, we often focus on the shortcomings of others. It is often more comfortable to simply mimic the tension, competition and discord we perceive and receive. Yet, we know that grace is not far from us when we go beyond our human brokenness: “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 nations shall be brought to you” (Isaiah 60:1-6).
Indeed, our hearts should throb and overflow with gratitude for the grace of the Incarnation. It is in the image of the Child Jesus — small and vulnerable — that we can recover our own greatness and dignity. In the Magi’s journey, we too can receive the gift of ongoing conversion and mission. The paths we take and the ways we follow should never be far from the manner given to us in Christ, namely, in solidarity with one another. Then, together in Christ’s glory, “justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more” (Psalm 72). May our encounter with Christ bring us closer to one another in justice and peace.
F. Javier Orozco
First published December 22, 2022 in the St. Louis Review