Tonight countless children in Latin American countries will eagerly await the arrival of “los Reyes,” the wise men. They will go outside and collect grass for the camels, place it next to their bed and will wake up to presents left by these mysterious visitors from long ago. I am reminded of my own childhood: the anticipation, the preparation, the excitement of gifts laying next to my bed. This is an exciting time!
While in most American homes the “holiday” has come and gone we have continued counting the days, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the wise men. The story of Jesus’ birth has been told time and time again. We have read Matthew, Luke, and even the Gospel of John. The children have reminded us each day what day of Christmas it is, Epiphany is coming!
I look forward to Epiphany every year. It has become a way to continue telling the story of Jesus’ birth as others have moved on. It has also become a way to pass on my cultural heritage to our children. There is something about marking our time in this way that helps me stay grounded as a follower of Jesus. In a real incarnate way the celebration is the continual manifestation of God’s work in us and in the world.
As I ponder this Epiphany there is also something else. These strangers were out there looking at the sky and recognized a star that promised a savior. Creation itself letting the world know that God had heard its plea. The ones that were not chosen were now part of God’s vision of salvation for the world. They came with gifts for royalty, came bowing down paying homage, and “were overwhelmed with joy.” This is a perfect story for the many who are looking for a sign – that things will get better, that someone cares, that they are not alone.
We need Epiphany, a story that reminds us of God’s universal plan of salvation, redemption, and renewal. Strangers looking at the stars who go on a journey to welcome a savior in the world. Foreigners who recognize what the powerful and the learned do not. They bring the best that they have and leave it at the feet of Jesus. Sensitive to God’s voice, they go another way so that the child and his family have time to flee.
On a recent exchange on Facebook a person took issue with the continuation of Christmas beyond December 25, “the Holidays are over, move on” this person said. It reminded me that by the time that the wise men came, the manger, the shepherds, the angels, were distant memories. The “everyday” had set in and the reality of this child could have been forgotten. Then come these exotic visitors who followed a star. They come and their visit brings about a scary and dangerous period in the story of Jesus. The powers of the day would not accept another way. In similar ways our celebration should remind us that the proclaiming and living of this gospel is truly dangerous, it changes things, it pushes the boundaries, its universality is a threat to those in power and control.
Tonight I’ll gather our children, tell the story, and continue the tradition. We will go outside, gather some grass, and look at the sky knowing that we are now the star that guides people to the savior. The gift giving is secondary to the story of a God that calls us to such universal, life giving work in the world. We too are called to become the signs of God’s presence in the world. We too bring the best we have and offer it at the feet of Jesus. The promise is to us also, the promise is to the whole world!
Feliz Dia de los Reyes!