Rev. Bill Kelley, O.S.C.
January 6, in the Christian calendar, is the feast of the Epiphany. The word means manifestation or revelation. I have heard it referred to as "little Christmas." In some countries, this day which comes 12 days after Christmas is bigger that December 25th. On the Epiphany we remember the wise men finding the new born messiah by following a star.
As a side note, if the couple in the song "my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree" had a fight on Christmas day and she returned one gift a day, when would the last gift be returned? The answer comes later.
For some people, the messiah was coming just for the chosen people, but this feast is a reminder that the messiah came for all people. The magi were referred to as astrologers, or wise people and their names are not mentioned in the Bible. Literature and song have numbered them and have called them kings and have named them Caspar representing the Europeans, Melchior representing Asians, and Balthazar representing Africans.
The only Bible account is from St. Matthew. Keep in mind Matthew was not there with his reporter’s notebook capturing the event. As with every famous person, most were not famous from the moment of their birth, unless the fame came from his parents. Matthew is a masterful storyteller, and as such uses some literary devises. A good writer may give a quick summary of the entire article at the beginning. There is also a bit of excitement in his story as he wants to tell the good news. Similar to a small child’s running to tell her mother that "I have a surprise gift for you. It is all wrapped up but I can’t wait until you find out the surprise is a bottle of perfume."
The story is that they followed a star. If you meet someone and they say come to my house, it is right under the full moon. I suspect you have just been given the brush off. Following a star does not have the accuracy of a GPS system. Maybe, the idea is to follow the light that has come to overcome darkness. Maybe it is to be enlightened by the messiah.
I can imagine people in former times noticing the days getting shorter and the nights getting longer. No wonder the winter solstice was such a welcome feast. As someone who can look up the length of any day in an almanac, and as someone living in the age of electricity, I do not end my day when the sun goes down. With a simple flick of the switch, light returns.
Another aspect of darkness does not go away with electricity. The darkness of my fears, the darkness of the monster under my bed, the darkness of hatred, the darkness of lack of forgiveness, the darkness of crippling situations. I need to be enlightened -- enlightened to see the presence of God, enlightened to see other people as my sisters and brothers, enlightened to see relationships are more valuable than things. I suspect you could add many instances of darkness, but also many sources of light.
Oh, by the way, she received enough gifts so the last one would be returned on Christmas Eve the following year.
Rev. Bill Kelley, O.S.C., is a priest at Sacred Heart-St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington and St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington.