The MySpiritualAdvisor Reflection for this week focuses on the contrast of the manger when Mary had the baby and the manger when the Wise Men visited. What did Casper, Melchoir and Balthazar start that Mary didn’t? How does this inform spirituality? #PublicFaith #JesusChrist #Teenager #Wisemen #Matthew #GreatChristianPreaching #Christmas #Epiphany #MSAWordfortheDay
For Listener supported MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/4/2015 The Observance of the Epiphany
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 2:1-12.
To those of us who are idealists and somewhat dreamers, Christmas can be a very special time of year. When I think of Mary and Joseph, in the manger with their baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths and shepherds coming with news of the message of the angels, my heart is warmed. The hope of a small ethnic community called the Hebrew people is coming to pass in this little child. Although the Lord in all his magnitude has come, there is a special warmth to this scene. Even in America, their poverty is heartwarming. The simplicity of babies and all the hope we hold in our hearts as we marvel at the lines in their tiny little fingers! Another thing we love about the Christ child in the manger on that day is that it seemed so quiet and unassuming, “meek and mild,” we sing in the Christmas hymn. Even the virgin girl, now mother, Mary pondered all these things in her heart.
I remember the smell of my babies as I snuggled them after their baths. I remember the gasp of air they took after I had been rocking them for a while which indicated that they were finally relaxing and nodding off to sleep. I remember all the things I used to hope for them. My children would be faithful Christians. My children would be protected from harm. My children would grow to be the fulfillment of all my hopes an dreams.
What I didn’t know or think of in advance is that they would grow up to be teenagers in a culture where it is in the water that you MUST reject everything that your parents or institutions, except for Disney, Sony, Apple, Google or the Sun Dance Film Festival, have ever taught you. Our children are exposed to the world of middle school and high school, a veritable “Lord of the Flies” environment, where shallowness and narcissism are virtues. They start to hate themselves for being too thin, too fat, too curly haired, too straight haired or too much your child. Then, all of a sudden, our hopes for our children are reduced to hoping that somehow, when they finally marry and have children, something of what we taught and/or believed will once again seem important to them.
January 6 is the Epiphany. Epiphany means to “make known publicly.” In fact, one commentary I read said that Epiphany is the day that we make Christ known to the world. When we do, the reaction is amazing. Listen to what happens when God makes Jesus known in the Gospel Lesson upon which this reflection is based.
Kings, wise men, not Hebrews, from afar, the orient even, come to this child. They worry not about power, or prestige, but are open to the movement of the spirit to bow down before THIS child. They do not hold back their wealth, but give the child the most expensive treasures: gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are wise, therefore, are humble. They know they want to be a part of this child’s future. These are the men who will expose the Christ Child, lying in the manger, to power, wealth, and prestige.
Herod, the king and tetrarch of Judea, he is immediately jealous of a baby who could not threaten his reign for years to come. He schemes to use these wise men. Already, lying in the manger, Jesus is exposed to danger, jealousy, and mendacity. Would the family need to hide the wealth? Would the family be safe? In Matthew’s rendering, Herod would later kill an entire village of children searching for THIS child. Instead of a mother in a manger, we have mothers wailing like Rachel for their murdered children. The contrast of quiet manger and Machiavellian Herod could not be more striking.
Sometimes the life of faith is like Mary in the manger with Jesus. It is quiet, secure, and hopeful. Other times, faith is like that of Rachel weeping for her children. Sometimes, faith is about pondering in our hearts and gathering in the great, mysterious and mighty work of God. It is a meditative time where we drink in the world. Other times, faith is the brazen act of offering to God our best and our most coveted gifts in the face of severe pressure to bow in another direction. Faith in this circumstance requires bravery and wisdom, the savvy to be as gentle as a dove and as cunning as a serpent. Jesus our refuge; Jesus our lightening rod.
The Epiphany reveals an incredible truth about what we know about God: he is both our port in the storm and the storm itself. The reactions are the same reactions as Adam and Eve in the garden. Humans cannot but see God as a competitive force laying claim to our power, our wealth and our prestige. How dare God humble us! How dare God come into human history and lay claim to our humanity! How dare that audacious God! How dare he live our life! How dare he interrupt our safety, comfort, quiet and sublimity! How dare he save us! More so, how dare he save them!
So, in the midst of the lives we create; our Herodian palaces, our Herodian networks of contacts, and our Herodian piles of mutual funds, stands a child who hasn’t done a thing, yet lays claim to us. How will we respond? Will we have wisdom and understand that we should have a place in God’s world, more so than God should clamor to be a part of ours? Will we have the savvy to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, or will we clutch tightfisted to what we know how to manipulate? Are we Mary or Rachel? Are we Herod or Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar?
This child is come, we all must choose. Amen.
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