Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent XXIII

If you look at any traditional portrayal of the nativity, live or otherwise, you will see the Holy Family, the shepherds, and the three kings.  Of course, this commonly accepted tradition flies in the face of the Christian calendar which marks the arrival of the three kings twelve days after Christmas on a day known as Epiphany.  And placing the shepherds and the wise men alongside each other also represents a choice to ignore scripture which suggests that the men from the east came when Jesus was around two years of age. (Matthew 2:13-18)  Still, putting them there at the same time makes for a fuller nativity scene and it gives more children a part in such an important Christian re-enactment.
So, forgive me for including these wise men (who may have been more or less than three) in my Advent meditations focusing on the nativity.  They were following the great star, but still they went to Jerusalem and the seat of political power in the region for guidance.  Did the nights suddenly become cloudy causing confusion for these wise men?  Or, perhaps, they assumed a king could only be born in such a city as Jerusalem.  An even greater mystery occurs while they were visitors in the city.  The Jewish leaders consulted by Herod knew the birth was to take place, but none of them are ever seen in our nativity scene.  Why none were curious enough to go check it out is a mystery.

What is not a mystery is the fact that the early visitors of Jesus were Jews and Gentiles.  They were the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich.  The shepherds brought no gifts.  The wise men brought extravagant gifts which no doubt provided sustenance for the Holy Family during the years of exile.  It is clear from the very beginning that Jesus came not for some, but for all.  He was born in Bethlehem as Savior for those shepherds, those wise men, you, me, and everyone else, too.   

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