St Mary Rotherhithe

7th January 2007

A Boy’s Look:

The Epiphany

‘A Boy’s Look’.

Carole, who is my Australian daughter-in-law first introduced me to this phrase, ‘a boy’s look’ Let me tell you what it means.

When her young son, Alex, is going to be late for school; he often can’t find his school cap, or his satchel or some homework which he has to hand in to-day. ‘Mum! I can’t find my cap’ (or whatever it is), he says in a tragic tone of voice.

Mother says: ‘Have you looked in your bedroom, Alex?; ‘Yes, Mum. I couldn’t see it anywhere,’ Alex replies.

‘Did you have a real look, Alex; or was it just a boy’s look? Go upstairs and look again; I’m sure I saw it there last night at bed-time’. So Alex dutifully goes upstairs, and there, indeed is the missing cap, satchel or homework as the case may be, lying on the floor underneath his discarded pyjamas. His first attempt was indeed ‘a boy’s look’,

But it’s not only everyday items like school caps or homework that people of all ages fail to see because they’ve only used a ‘boy’s look’ searching for them.

Many grown-up people take ‘a boy’s look’ at the Christian Faith and decide, on the basis of that boy’s look, that ‘there’s nothing in it for me’. For every one person whose decision has been taken after a serious adult look at what Christians like you and me believe in and decided that ‘it’s not true’, there are a thousand whose decision is based on ‘a boy’s look’, perhaps taken a when they were at Sunday School.

Now, Sunday School has great merits; but let’s face the fact that it’s designed for young children, not grown-ups. So the chances of what’s taught in Sunday School satisfying a bright teenager, let alone an adult, is remote. Yet that’s all the raw material that most people have to work with if they ask themselves whether God exists or not, and if He does, what He is like and how we should approach Him.

There were many highly intelligent people living in the Middle East at the time of the Jesus Christ’s birth. But intelligence by itself doesn’t get anyone very far in their search for Him-Who-Was-From-the-Beginning. The Epiphany, which we commemorate today, tells us how three or more Wise Men (and wisdom is something quite different from intelligence) decided to follow up the clues which God had provided them in order to discover ‘Him who is born King of the Jews’. The word Epiphany means revealing, uncovering, manifesting. All those three words describe Alex’s second, and successful, attempt to find his missing school cap underneath his pyjamas.

It was only when he started to look seriously for the missing object that Alex stood any chance of finding it. In the same way it’s only when people, however intelligent they are, are wise or mature enough to take an adult look for God that they stand much chance of finding Him. Wise, in this sense, isn’t the opposite of ‘simple’ or uneducated’ but of ‘foolish’.

Sensible (or wise) people will always apply what’s called ‘the A.I.D.A. process’ in their search for God: A.I.D.A. stands for the first letters of Attention, Interest, Decision and Action.

A stands for Attention. In order for anyone to communicate with someone else they must first of all get their Attention. Otherwise they might just as well be talking to a brick wall. It doesn’t matter if what they want to communicate is important or not. If they don’t have the attention of the other party it will, as we say, ‘go in one ear and out of the other’. That is just as true of what God is trying to tell us as it is of any human being. Wise men know that God is continually choosing to communicate with them in many different ways: but like a radio or television set, unless we are ‘tuned into’ God’s wavelength then it’s not going to be ‘received’ by us. Reading the Bible, saying our prayers, taking part with others in the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist are just some of the ways in which we attend to what God is wanting to say to us. But unless we consciously apply ourselves ‘to getting onto His wavelength’ then we shall hear very little of what he is saying whichever means of communication we are using.

Which brings us to I for Interest. There’s all the difference between having a radio or a TV playing away to itself in the background, and actually interesting ourselves in what it is saying to us. People who come to Church or read the Bible regularly or occasionally often complain that ‘it doesn’t seem to do much for me’. Well, they should ask themselves whether they are giving what is being said or done sufficient of their interest to ensure that they are trying to understand what they are reading, hearing or taking part in

The probability is that the particular message that God wants to give you (or me, or the person in the next pew) on a given occasion will be three quite different things. The truth he is trying to convey to each one of us whether through the readings, the sermon, the hymns, the prayers or the Liturgy itself may well be three different, but complementary truths. He may even be communicating with us by something said to us by one of our fellow-worshippers before or after the act worship itself. God isn’t limited in the ways in which He communicates with us, but unless we engage our interest by listening to Him, we shall not be hearing Him in the same way as Wise people do.

But God’s communication-process doesn’t end at Attention and Interest. They’re just the beginning. We may sincerely say ‘Yes’ to whatever God is asking of us, but unless that ‘Yes’ takes is followed by the D for Decision it will be still-born. So when we say ‘Thanks be to God’ at the end of the readings, unless that statement is accompanied by some decision by us actually to do something about it, it will achieve no more than when Alex replied ‘Yes, Mum’ when asked ‘have you looked in your bedroom?’ when all he has done is ‘Take a Boy’s Look’. His answer was truthful – he had looked, but by taking no more than a Boy’s Look he failed to find the thing he was searching for.

Equally, no decision can be described as ‘wise’ unless it results in A for Action. How many times do we get through the A., I. & D. stages, only to fall at the final A-fence. Resolutions, Resolutions, Resolutions.?

The Wise Men who found Jesus made their journey in stages. Having decided to search for Him it would have been most un-wise to think that they would be miraculously transported to wherever He was. Yes, their wisdom told them to follow the star, but the story tells us that they had to ask the way on at least one occasion. So it is most unlikely that our decisions, yours and mine will place us directly and permanently on the path to righteousness. We need to ask others, always being aware that there may be those, like King Herod, who are only too ready to give us wrong or malicious answer. The Wise Man follows the advice he has been given until it proves to be misleading. Then is the time to ask someone else.

What will lead nowhere is if we behave like Alex did .If we only take a Boy’s Look at where we think God might be directing us and hope that somehow ‘it will turn out to be all right in the end’ then all too often it will lead either nowhere (in which case we shall get disillusioned) or else in the wrong direction (in which it will be all the further to have to go back).

A Boy’s Look is the sure recipe for getting nowhere fast! It’s not the look for Wise Men!

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