We could well say that this week marked the season when humans are drawn together in different ways to affirm that we are most naturally fulfilled when we come together in unity.
Last Sunday was one of those very special days of the year for the religiously inclined... Christmas Day when millions gathered to acknowledge the generous self-giving nature of God revealed as human. Of lesser significance, Boxing Day stands tall for many for a different reason. It is certainly the day of great devotion for materialistic worship with the stampede to the mega retail store sales.
On that vary same day the Religion of Sport makes its claim to those who follow their great idols with the almost mandatory Boxing Day Pilgrimage to the MCG. The week comes to its conclusion today with the Orthodox Church celebrating its Christmas. For the Western Christian world we are uniting with them and celebrating this same day, but under name of the Epiphany, the coming of the three wise men.
Something within the very nature of our being will find a way to draw us together even if it is for different reasons. I want to suggest that most of these events just touch on the heart of this innate propensity of humanity, while the spiritual call beckons humans to come to terms with the ultimate. This we do as people of faith.
At the heart of the Epiphany event is the message of the Universal. It is symbolised by the three so-called Kings, wise men, astrologers from the far, far East. They were the distant foreigners who opened the door to understanding that the birth of Jesus was of far greater significance than just the Jewish people. It was of universal significance. It had the capacity to touch the hearts and minds of all people.
The spiritual nature of life has always revealed that all is an integrated unity. We see this vision increasingly apparent in the world of science. Nothing can be regarded as separate or as an isolated fragment and of no consequence. It enlightens the human mind to the sacredness of all that is.
And the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus will in time reveal the nature and quality of this universal character of life.
Each of these great themes of Jesus life; birth, life, death and resurrection is a focus for some of the most fundamental questions all humans find themselves asking at some time of life.
- Where do we come from?
- To where are we going?
- What is the very purpose of life?
- How do we relate to others?
- Is death the ultimate conclusion of life?
A TIME OF CRISIS
We live in an era of history, when life is so uncertain. Tension is great. Conflict is rampant. Spot wars are continuous. People really do wonder about the future. Numerous authors speak of humanity as in a time of crisis like very few eras before. Common predictions declare that we must find a way to live in unity or we risk catastrophic destruction.
The life styles, the national identities, the self interests of societies and ultimately the clash of philosophies, cultures and religions, paint a very fragmented humanity balanced on the edge of a great precipice.
THE PATH OF UNITY
Of all the Christmas scenes, the coming of the wise men offers the message of hope we need in our day. All humans are created as one to live in harmony. To live with the vision, devotion and generosity of the wise men, maps a pathway forward for bringing all people together on the great pilgrimage of life revealed in Christmas.
OPENNESS OF MIND
I want to make one extra point I believe is vital for fulfilling this universal vision of harmony. It is an openness of mind. The wise men were in fact astrologers or at least embraced astrology. They took seriously the reading of the stars for an understanding of life.
Traditional Christian faith has rejected this as a genuine approach to living the faithful life. And I emphasise that I am not advocating it as such. But the point I want to make is that all of creation is the handiwork of God. God speaks to people through all of life, so one needs to have an openness of mind, an expectation that God may reveal his face, his voice, or flag an intention even in the most unexpected circumstance or unusual ways.
God used some wise men who respected the stars to convey an important message to humanity. In itself, the Christian faith does not believe it is an adequate system of belief to guide us to fulfilment. Neither will the festival of light, materialism, or dare I even say sport.
Christmas is so much more than the season to be merry. It has a life-shaping message. Christmas tells us that God is with us. Perhaps Epiphany tells us that God is with All of us.