Br. Geoffrey Tristram

“Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, asking ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star in the east, and have come to pay him homage.”

Who were these extraordinary people?  Only Matthew mentions them, but they have worked on the imaginations of centuries of worshippers.  By the 5th century these wise men had become kings.  By the 8th century they each had a name, and by the 14th century one was Asian, one European and one African, to represent the three continents of the known world – so Christ reveals himself, his Epiphany – to the whole world.

What fascinates me about them is what it is which caused these men who were probably wealthy, well-respected, comfortable – what made them leave their homes, and go on this long, dangerous journey?  The poet W. H. Auden put it this way, “We three know that this journey is much too long, that we want our dinners, and miss our wives, our books, our dogs.  But have only the vaguest idea why we are what we are.  To discover how to be human now, is the reason we follow the star.”

To discover how to be human.  For those wise men their deepest longing to become fully human would lead them to the Christ child.  Their difficult and dangerous pilgrimage was to be a model for countless people ever since, who have set out on a similar odyssey to come to know themselves, and to discover that they can only truly know themselves when they discover that they are known by God.

However much we have, however comfortable and secure we make our lives – however much we bury ourselves in the finite – in material things – at some moment we shall glimpse that star, which will awaken that deep aching for something else, a deep dissatisfaction, a longing for something that no objects or possessions can fully satisfy.  And this longing, however unhappy it may make us feel, is actually due to our greatness – that we are made in God’s very image, and that we are made for God, and nothing less can satisfy us, and give us peace, except God.  As St. Augustine poignantly declared, “For you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.”

That same God who disturbed the hearts and lives of those wise men, and set them on a long journey which would not end until they came to Christ – that same God is active today.  He continues to disturb us when we become too comfortable, too dependent on the finite, or the material.

But it’s always been a mystery to me, why it is that some people make that journey and discover the Christ Child, and others do not.  Others, including Herod, also saw that star – and others must have been drawn to it.  One of the most famous philosophers of the 20th century, Bertrand Russell, also, I think, saw that star and felt the extraordinary spell – and yet remained an atheist.  He wrote these words:  “The center of me is always and eternally a terrible pain.  A searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfigured and infinite – the beautiful vision – God.  I do not find it, but the love of it is my life.”

When God disturbs you, when God breaks into your life, just when everything seemed so ordered and comfortable – be thankful – for that is God’s epiphany to you – Christ the morning star, calling you forward and onward on your journey, your pilgrimage of faith.

Let the last word be Augustine again:  “To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances: To seek him the greatest adventure: To find him, the greatest human achievement.”


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  1. Faith Turner on March 11, 2016 at 20:54

    This Lent has been very special to me. I have realized that God loves me and I am not an accidental throw away. This love is so powerful and sweet that I wish I had found it sooner, even tho I was looking for it I was not feeling it. I had to get myself out of the way first.

  2. Roderic Brawn on January 14, 2016 at 19:07

    Maybe God is calling me to a duty or life pattern new to me.

  3. Dee Dee on January 14, 2016 at 16:24

    This is a lovely and gently profound sermon. I am thankful for God’s epiphany to me three years ago. And I pray that all will pay attention when it happens to them. How utterly sad for a person to ignore it and miss the peace, joy, and life that follows.

  4. Paul on January 14, 2016 at 15:05

    Oh newly discovered God, please guide me, please lead me, please show me the way.


  5. Muriel Akam on January 14, 2016 at 11:00

    We have had Christmas and Christ is with us. The journey continues to find Him in our everyday lives. What an adventure as 2016 stretches out in front of us.May we find Him or just even glimpses of Him.

  6. Rodney Williams on January 13, 2016 at 21:37

    Eventually I couldn’t get through an entire movie or enjoy a good steak. Most books became difficult to read. Alcohol quit working. Money provided less and less comfort. I couldn’t sleep. Then I knew.

  7. Karen A. Hartsell on January 13, 2016 at 17:06

    Thank you Br Geoffrey for these words. As I look back at 6/15, 6/29, 8/7 and 12/5 of 2015, John and I have had some kind of journey fortified by our faith and our belief in prayer Cataract surgeries, 6/15 and 6/29 (surgery gone wrong) and emergency surgery on 8/7 for detached retina. I believed and John worried but now he is 20/15 in the left eye and 20/20 in the right eye! On 12/5 I broke my arm, and I am blessed; it wasn’t my hip and workers comp is paying the bills.
    I have prayed incessantly for peace, health, and well-being. This journey has been difficult but filled with blessings!

  8. Michael on January 13, 2016 at 09:41

    God has disturbed me for a very long time, but I still fail to understand what he wants

  9. John Backman on January 13, 2016 at 08:48

    I can never, ever, hear this enough. Seeing and following the star has formed a large part of my life’s trajectory for the past 10 years, and the cost (loss of income, etc.) leaves me with a longing not only for love from God, but for reassurance like this. Thank you.

  10. ginger on January 13, 2016 at 07:06

    Our hearts are restless until we find You, God. So true, and so real. I cannot be my true self until I find You. Thank you for this beautiful reminder. Remembering God’s Presence with us is our blessing……and he is with us in many ways, mostly small ways that need our attention: that person who spoke to us in the waiting room; that bird just sitting on the branch, looking at me. It is beautiful.

  11. Ruth West on February 12, 2013 at 16:59

    Br. Geoffrey, How true is the quote from St. Augustine! We truly are restless and unsatisfied until we find the peace which only God can give.
    Thanks for this good reminder of that truth. REW

  12. Linda Good Fischer on February 3, 2013 at 09:00

    Greetings, Br. Geoffrey, and thank you for this lovely reflection. It reminds me again of why I fell in love with Jesus even as a little girl. “Love-longing” is best word I have come up with after sixty years on the planet

    My daily prayers for healing and peace are with Br. Kevin. Thank you for the note and for the opportunity to pray on his behalf.



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