Today the Christian world celebrates the Epiphany; the commemoration of the moment when the three kings, or wise men, arrived at the birthplace of Jesus. They had journeyed far and long, following a star in the sky. Why did they embark upon this journey? They noticed something different and new in the sky; sensing its importance, they chose to follow it. They interpreted this sign in the sky to be significant and a sign of the arrival of a powerful person, a king. I have no doubt that although wearied by the journey, they were excited by the anticipation of their findings.
When they arrived at their destination they found the powerful person whom they were seeking, in a barn! Talk about blown expectations. Their journey of significance; their journey of anticipation at finding a powerful king on his throne, led them instead to a barn and a baby lying in a manger. A manger, its prior and intended use, from which the lowly and dirty animals ate. They found a defenseless baby laying in an animals’ food bowl. Talk about a let down.
Along our life’s journey, when our anticipated expectations don’t live up to reality, how do we react? What did these wise men do? According to the story, they not only stayed, but they knelt in homage to the baby in the food trough.
These wise men were able to recognize that although their expectations of finding a powerful man on a throne was a baby lying in a feeding trough, nonetheless they were able to recognize that their journey still had meaning. They were flexible with their expectations, understanding, through wisdom, that just because what they encountered did not match their expectation, it didn’t mean that the reason for the journey itself was flawed or wrong. The journey was true; the expectation is what needed to change. These wise men, after paying homage to the special baby, returned to their homeland by a different route; a new path. In a truly symbolic way, these wise men were so changed by their experience, that their “old path” no longer would lead them home. They now took a new way, and new approach, a new path, to find their way to their home.
How often do we feel disappointment at our journey’s end and thus respond by turning around and going home? What if the wise men did the same? They were able to “see” beyond their own expectations and were thus open to a new way of perceiving the world around them. The wise men didn’t act upon what they previously thought, nor upon their previous expectations. Rather, they saw more deeply the true reality before them. It is in that shift in perceiving and thinking which allowed them to see what was really present, and to be changed by the experience, not changed by their expectations.
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