The Epiphany of the Lord this Sunday marks the last week of our current message series: God Comforts His People. Over the last six weeks, we have been using a popular symbol of comfort and coziness from Scandinavia called hygge (pronounced “hue-gah”) to understand the kind of spiritual comfort God offers to us.
During Advent and Christmas, we have explored how to bring spiritual comfort to ourselves and others (i) by slowing down and becoming consciously aware of God’s nearness to us, (ii) by preparing our homes and hearts for the Lord’s coming, (iii) by loosening control over our lives and allowing God to bring comfort to us, (iv) by offering spiritual comfort to others, and (v) by finding comfort in the gift of our own families.
This week, we take comfort in the revelation of God’s only Son, who was born to bring consolation and hope to a struggling world. An epiphany is the manifestation of the divine, and in this week’s gospel the newborn king of the Jews appears to the three magi as the savior of the world. They sought him out and traveled afar to pay him homage. Along with angels, shepherds, and animals, the wisemen accompanied the Lord in his first hours on earth. Their journey can teach us how to bring comfort to others by accompanying them in seeking out the Christ. Like the wisemen, we can make the spiritual life hyggelig for others in three simple steps.
Be Open. Most people will never proactively ask for spiritual guidance or accompaniment. Yet, there are many opportunities to walk with someone on the spiritual journey. The wisemen in today’s gospel followed a star to find the Christ. To the extent we are open and look for the signs, God will show us when and how to accompany another person. Often, it will be a small window of opportunity: an offhand comment at a party, a moment of grief, or a stranger who seems downcast.
Be Trustworthy. People frequently confess gossiping or betraying the trust of another. So few people actually are trustworthy that, when you develop a reputation for being a responsible confidant, your neighbors and friends naturally will gravitate to you and trust you with their deepest thoughts. King Herod tried to tempt the wisemen to reveal the location of the Infant Jesus, but they proved trustworthy. To accompany others on their spiritual journey requires a high degree of personal integrity.
Be Quiet. A spiritual guide listens more than he or she speaks. It may be tempting to offer easy advice or clichéd opinions, but you should refrain. The only true spiritual growth comes from discoveries made on one’s own. No amount of logic or persuasion will correct erroneous beliefs or move people to a deeper spiritual level. The magi “prostrated themselves and did [Jesus] homage.” When seeking to accompany others on matters of the divine, listening is far better than speaking.
Everyone needs someone to talk to about their spiritual life, and accompanying others on their journey to God is a form of spiritual hygge, comfort along the way. Be open to the opportunities; be trustworthy when they happen; and then be quiet.
Father Roger Gustafson