2nd Sunday of Christmas

A helicopter was flying around above Seattle yesterday when an electrical malfunction disabled all the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to steer to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said “Where am I?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign, and held it in a building window. Their sign said “You are in a helicopter.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map, determined the course to steer to Sea-Tac airport, and landed safely.

After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “You are in a helicopter” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded, “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, similar to their help-lines, they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer.”

Anecdote 1)     In 1895 Henry van Dyke wrote the “Story of the Other Wise Man,” a fourth wise man called Artaban. Our hero is not mentioned in the Gospel because he missed the caravan. He got to Bethlehem too late to see the baby Jesus. But Artaban did make it in time to save one of the Holy Innocents by bribing a soldier. For 33 years Artaban searched for Jesus. He did not find him. But all the while the Fourth wise man fed the hungry, helped the poor. Then one day in Jerusalem Artaban saw the “King of the Jews” being crucified. He started to offer a pearl as ransom. But then he saw a girl being sold into slavery to pay family debts. Artaban gave his pearl to buy freedom for the girl. Suddenly the earth quaked as Jesus died on the cross and a stone struck Artaban. Dying, he heard a voice saying: “When you helped the least of my children, you helped me. Meet me in heaven!” Artaban, the fourth magi, had been making God present in his community for years by helping others. God asks each of us on the feast of Epiphany to be a fourth Magi by becoming God’s epiphanies, making His love present in the world around us by our acts of love and kindness.

Anecdote 2) The true epiphany: A rabbi put the following question to his disciples, “How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?” One student replied, “When from a distance you can distinguish between a sheep and a dog.” “No,” said the rabbi. Another student quickly offered, “When you can tell a fig tree from a grapevine.” “No,” repeated the rabbi. “Then tell us, please,” asked the students. Replied the rabbi, “Darkness ends and day begins when you can look into the faces of all other human beings and you have enough light in you to recognize them as your brothers and sisters.”

Anecdote 3) Epiphany under water: There was once a holy monk who lived in Egypt. One day a young man came to visit him. The young man asked: “Oh, holy man, I want to know how to find God.” The monk was muscular and burly. He said: “Do you really want to find God?” The young man answered: “Oh, but I do.” So the monk took the young man down to the river. Suddenly, the monk grabbed the young man by the neck and held his head under water. At first the young man thought the monk was giving him a special baptism. But when after one minute the monk didn’t let go, the young man began struggling. Still the monk wouldn’t release him. Second by second, the young man fought harder and harder. After three minutes, the monk pulled the young man out of the water and said: “When you desire God as much as you desired air, you will have the epiphany of God.”

Do you know what would have happened if it had been three Wise Women instead of three Wise Men? Women would say: They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts. Here’s Men’s rebuttal….Yeah, and do you know what they said would have said when they left? “Did you see the sandals Mary was wearing with that gown?” “That baby doesn’t look anything like Joseph!”  “Can you believe they let all of those disgusting animals in the house?” “I heard that Joseph isn’t even working right now!” “And that donkey that they are riding has seen better days too!” “Want to bet on how long it will take until you get your casserole dish back?”

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