Dom DeLuise was a comedian and actor that many of us enjoyed on TV and in the movies. He passed away ten years ago. For many years Dom DeLuise made many people laugh, but he himself suffered from extreme depression. When his little son asked him what he wanted for Christmas, Dom replied, “Joy, I want joy for Christmas and you can’t give it to me!”
On Christmas morning his 50-pound child handed Dom a big sheet of cardboard with the word “JOY” scrawled on it. “You see, Dad, I can give you Joy,” he said. Dom DeLuise broke down laughing and crying. A God-Flash.
Love and laughter got together and in time his severe depression left him. Few of us suffer from severe depression, thank goodness. But most of us would chime in with Dom DeLuise and ask for JOY at Christmas.
Today we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany – Little Christmas, the final celebration of the Holiday season. Many people leave their Christmas trees, cribs and decorations up until after the Epiphany.
In today’s Gospel we meet the Magi who have traveled a great distance to find the Messiah, to find the source of JOY. The Magi did 5 things: 1. They came, 2. They saw the baby, 3. They worshipped him, 4. They gave gifts, and 5. They went home by a different route.
1. They came from a long distance. They overcame mountains and other obstacles. For us to get to a church, it’s a few blocks away or a few miles away in the car. Yet we have to deal with a many more distractions than the Magi did. Presence means so much, to the faith community around us and to God. So often we begin our prayers, “Let us put ourselves in the presence of God.”
2. They saw the baby in the manger with his teenage mother and foster father. History has glorified this scene for us, made it into an icon, an eternal image. But the Magi saw the original. It was a sight that changed their lives. It is what pilgrims today go to Fatima, Lourdes or Medjugorje to see. You and I suffer from the ho hum’s. We come to church week after week with no real impact on our lives. It’s possible that God is so close to us in our lives that we don’t see God. A God-Glare. We’re in the picture frame with God.
3. Then the Magi worshipped. This is the natural response once you encounter the Lord. Recall the Doubting Thomas in the upper room the week after Easter. After he put his finger in Jesus’ hand and side, he fell to the floor and exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” True worship is our response to a real encounter with the Lord. A God-Spell.
4. The Magi gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, very expensive gifts. I am reminded of a Dennis the Menace cartoon. Dennis is leaving church with his parents and he says to the minister at the door: “I thought that was a pretty good show today for a quarter.” His parents are embarrassed and we laugh. But there is a lot of truth here. Our gift to God is so often just a little something in the collection basket – a tip for God. The Wise Men gave the best they could give. God is not looking for money or for a tip. Those are churchy things. God is looking for a change of heart in us. God is not looking for a person who is a year older in 2019. God is looking for a new person in 2019.
5. Lastly, the Magi went home by a different route. They saw things they had not seen before. I invite you to do the same. Whether you are leaving from church or from somewhere else, go home by another route. Taking a new route home will symbolize a new road for you in 2019. You might see a place that you never knew existed. A couple of years ago I took a right turn instead of a left turn like I had done for years. A block away I saw a magnificent sculpture of four dolphins carved into the trunk of a tree in front of a rather ordinary-looking house. I sat there and marveled.
A new route hopefully will symbolize a new path for you to be more gentle, a listener and not always a talker, a helper and not simply a critic. Taking a new new route home may help you and me to realize that we are not a leader, but rather a follower, a follower of Jesus.