Most of us know “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, right? The 1965 cartoon has become classic pre-Christmas entertainment. Therein, Charlie Brown and his friends learn the true meaning of Christmas – beyond the glitz, glamour, and gaiety that characterize the season. At a crucial point, an exasperated Charlie Brown cries out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”
Linus (by far the most spiritually tuned character) responds by telling the Christmas story from Luke’s gospel. “For unto you is born this day a Savior, ‘tis Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” He returns to his friend and declares, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
That’s what Christmas is all about. And all of our celebrations for the last two weeks have revolved around that reality: that a Child has been born who is no ordinary baby; He is Christ the Lord – the Son of God, here on earth – whom shepherds and wise men can encounter and touch when they seek Him. Therefore, our feast day today is a reminder of what Christmas really means: that we can discover God in our midst; that we can touch Him and honor Him; that He can change our lives in a profound way if we let Him.
The Epiphany is about our deeply human search for God that is at the heart of all religious experience. It is about holy longing and God’s merciful love that reveals Himself to our world – to us – to you. In fact, it is why I am a Christian.
I believe that the Universe exists and that it began at some point in time and space, from which point much of scientific research has shown it to be expanding (the so-called “Big Bang theory”). I believe that such a beginning required energy to induce/create that beginning and that this “prime energy” necessarily had to exist outside of that primordial “stuff.” Philosophers (and other wise men and women) have referred to such an “energy” as the “Prime-“ or “Unmoved Mover.” I call it God. Therefore, I believe that God created the Universe, everything in it, and established laws by which it operates. The result of this operation has been the creation of human beings, who have also been endowed with reason by God as His way of connecting with us. He did this because of His infinite love.
Because we share that gift of reason, we have an innate desire to “know beyond knowledge” and to touch that which is outside of our rational experience. Therefore, God also gave us the gift of Faith in order to reach out beyond that limit of knowledge. In time, God revealed Himself to us – particularly through the People of Israel, as we read in the Bible, inspired by God. This revelation was God’s gift to bring us into deeper knowledge of Him and His will. This same God, out of His deep desire to be united with us, ultimately became man in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus reveals to us the true nature of man, as well as that of God, and in Him we have communion with God through Faith. In addition to His earthly ministry, Jesus established the Church to continue to bring people together with God and one another. And here we are.
This journey – one that might begin with an intellectual realization – is one that is first begun by God Himself. It is the journey to know Him. It is why we were created; and it is why Jesus was born. It is, in short, what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about the fact that God became human, and now He can be sought and found by us.
The Wise Men illustrate this journey perfectly. They begin their journey in scientific pursuit – the exploration of the stars. They realize that there is something special – something “more” that they are compelled to seek. This search leads them to the Jews – to Jerusalem, where God’s Temple is. From there, they are led to Bethlehem, where the New Temple – Jesus Christ – has now been born. And they acknowledge here the fulfillment of their search – of their own holy longings.
As we celebrate this Epiphany, we ought to recognize that the answer to our human longing is found not in the power of science or the culmination of human “progress.” These things will always leave us longing for more. Instead, today we realize that the answer to life – the “true meaning of Christmas” – comes in seeking and finding Jesus – a search that we continue each day, and which is fulfilled right here, as we encounter Him anew.