The Epiphany: the Greatness of Jesus Revealed in his Smallness

A Christmas gathering in Santiago, Chile.

A Christmas gathering in Santiago, Chile.

“We travel all the way from the East, are you sure this is the place where the King of the Jews is born?”

“I am not 100% sure. We were told to follow the star. And the star stops here.”

“A messy manger? To pay homage to a child born in a messy manger?”

“Well, since we are here, might as well go in to have a look.”

“What Child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping? So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, King to own Him. The King of Kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him. This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and Angels sing. Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.” (What Child is This lyrics)

Today, on this great solemnity of Epiphany, the Church celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the world, represented by the encounter with the three wise men (magi) who traveled from the East, guided by the star, to see the newborn babe in the manger in Bethlehem. They are Gentiles, people from outside the Israelite nation. According to Cambridge Dictionary, Epiphany means: a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you; a powerful religious experience. So what’s The Solemnity of Epiphany so important to us, what do we suddenly understand and what’s the powerful experience? First it doesn’t make common sense for the King of Jews to be born in a messy manger. A 4+ stars inn, at least. He must be a child more than of the rich and nobles. “In sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. … This child is destined … to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:30-35). I recall Pope Benedict XVI also said “God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. . . . God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him” The Child is revealed for all of us, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come!” The opening words of the first reading (Isaiah 60:1) give us a command to follow. The star, the light the Child Jesus is for us all who search for peace, for salvation, and the meeting of Jews and Gentiles, believers and non-believers. God calls us together soaked in his love, and he calls us to become one family where peace and reconciliation reign. The light gives us faith, hope and love. How do we welcome our neighbours and friends who do not share our faith? Like the Magi, who make an extraordinary trip to pay homage to the newborn Christ, we are also invited to pay homage and are to be the heralds of the Good News, to proclaim that Jesus is born and there is freedom in Him who lived and loved, died and rose for us. Let us be overwhelmed with joy, and dare to invite others in.

Tomorrow, Monday, is the Solemnity of Baptism of the Lord. After that, the Christmas season will end and the Ordinary Time begins when the Baby Jesus will be 30 by then to start His mission. “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). The Baby Jesus is for all the poor, literally, physically and spiritually. He is a Child of the poor. I started my permanent deacon mission at double His age (60) to serve the needy and the poor. Soup kitchen, services at missions, hospital and old age home visits, etc. The sleeves of our dalmatics are so designed to be wide enough for ease in carrying supplies and food to the helpless and hungry. But now, ten years later, I, like a new born baby, cannot walk and talk. iPad is the only device for me to communicate. Google helps me to search and research for my weekly assignment, the reflection. I have been pondering everyday puzzling on who I serve now, and what’s next.

When I meditate on the nativity after mass on New Year’s day, I suddenly become conscious of: the greatness of Jesus revealed in his smallness, coming into the world as a helpless child born in the poorest conditions. Christ came in this weak state to help us to be at peace with our own helplessness and weakness. He wants to lift us up in all of the glory with which we have been created. His love and mercy are ALWAYS available to us! Christ being a Child of the Poor gives me comfort and hope.

“Helpless and hungry, lowly afraid, wrapped in the chill of mid-winter. Comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace, new life for the world. Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger? This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor. Who is the stranger, here in our midst, looking for shelter among us? Who is this outcast? Who do we see amidst the poor, the children of God? … Bring all the thirsty, all who seek peace; bring those with nothing to offer. Strengthen the feeble, say to the frightened heart: “Fear not, here is our God!”. Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger? This is Christ,revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.” (Scott Soper, “Child of the Poor” Lyrics)

By Deacon Raymond Chan, Chalice speaker and Champion