The Holy Days of Christendom no longer mark the progress of our time. Once church bells tolled the hours of the day, and holidays told the story of the year. There were four Sundays of Advent; 12 days of Christmas celebration, December 25-January 5; and then there was the Day of Epiphany, January 6. This was the day of the star and the Wisemen.
One might long for a simpler, more “Christian” time, but truth be told the Bible story differs from the tradition it has become. Matthew 1 does not speak of kings, but of “Magi.” These visitors were important not because of their political standing or power, but because of their learning and “other-ness.” Magi were scholars, practitioners of “Zoroastrianism” (astrology.) The mystery is that they, through faulty means of revelation, both knew about and came to honor the birth of Jesus while Israel’s own king, Herod, did not. It is a strange and disturbing contrast. Foreigners respected God’s miracle. The government sought to destroy it.
It does not matter by what means you come to know about Jesus. It does not matter who you are or how you worship. What matters is that God is up to something wonderful. Christmas has signaled a new relationship between God and humanity, a relationship of love, vulnerability and presence. The Gospel of Matthew shows us two ways that people responded. One was respect and awe. The other was murder born of jealousy. The core question, of course, is how we choose to respond today. Humility and thankfulness would seem to be the greater gift.
Let’s do that!
Bp. Dave Brauer-Rieke