What are you searching for? The wise men were searching for the King of the Jews. Why? They had everything, wealth, status, wisdom. They had no apparent reason to go looking for something more. From our perspective, they had it all. Was it mere curiosity because of the star? I think it was more.
Most people want to know the meaning of life in some sense. Most young people as they transition from puberty to adulthood are full of ideals and try to find a reason to be and a distinct personal identity that fits that reason. For many young people that search ends in a kind of emptiness. The world offers this glittery image of success as wealth and status, a form of celebrity. Reality TV only reinforces that, when everyone seems to be able to have their 15 minutes of fame or an instant rise to stardom. People start to think they have the right to deserve it all.
For others, the dream job never happens. The employment and the responsibility rut with bills to pay, duties at work, duties at home, etc. guts them of any sense of meaning. So life becomes a treadmill of making do. Excitement or any sense of momentary pleasure comes from transitory highs like alcohol, drugs, sex, clubbing, the pub, etc.
For some, life comes down to relationships and feeling loved. And being loved and loving is truly one of life’s golden treasures and a worthy pursuit. But few of us truly know how to love and to be loved. Many today do not know how to have a long term meaningful relationship. As soon as a relationship stops being exciting, as soon as it starts being hard work, many people bail on the relationship and start a new one. The relationship cycle goes on, round and around.
What are you searching for? The wise men wanted something more. They looked up to the heavens for signs and portents that signalled something extraordinary, something transcendent. They wanted more from life than their immediate tangible earthly success. In fact, they wanted it so much they were willing to go on a journey to find it. This was no easy journey. Oh yes their wealth probably made it as comfortable as possible for them. They no doubt had slaves and servants to wait on them and guards to protect them from attack. They had resources to replace the worn out camel and pay for whatever they needed. Still it was a long and dangerous trip. And they did not know exactly where it would take them. They embarked in faith.
Sometimes to find what we want in life, it takes a bit of faith, a bit of commitment, a bit of investment of our resources be it time, money or effort. The stupid myth that we deserve it, that it should all come to us easy and without any pain or exertion is absurd. Another myth that we often live with is that I can have the maximum return with a minimum of effort. It is true that sometimes life feels too complicated and takes too much effort. Sometimes we look at life thinking that it should not be so hard. Like the wise men, however, sometimes to find what we are looking for means we have to invest some real effort and to step out in faith.
Finding real meaning can be dangerous and counter cultural. It certainly was for the wise men. Herod was not too happy to hear of this other king. And in the end he tried to kill the child they were searching for. The wise men on finding the child knelt in homage, in worship. Imagine three very wealthy, sophisticated, well dressed old men, on their knees in front of a baby in the house of a poor carpenter. The scene is too bizarre to imagine. Sometimes the search has to be flexible, open ended, open to new possibilities, open to guidance and the wisdom of others. Sometimes what we are searching for is not found in the place we expect. Sometimes what we are really looking for is not what we think or imagine.
What are you searching for?
But now I want to tell you something incredible. Life is not primarily about your search. Epiphany is about the truth that God has come searching for you and me. There he is in that little baby, God incarnate, God enfleshed for you and me to see. Epiphany is God appearing; God revealed to you and me and to the world. God in human form so God can be with us, touch us, speak to us, and show love for us. Epiphany is the revelation that God is searching for us, reaching out to us, coming to find us. It is a mission of love and grace and truth. Our challenge is to not turn away, to not go our own way, to not go on some endless search that takes us away from God. Our challenge is to kneel in worship and to offer him our gift, the gift of ourselves, the gift of our life. This Epiphany find life in the Christ child who comes to bring us life, abundant and eternal life. This Epiphany, stop searching and let God find you.