“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed His star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” -Matthew 2:2
As I write this message of encouragement to you it is the twelfth day of Christmas. Tomorrow, January 6th, it will be what I like to call the Epiphany of epiphanies where we will remember the arrival of the Magi at the place of the Christ. Their longing answered by a leading which Matthew describes as a star. What Matthew tells us in a somewhat hidden way is that the gentile world has come to honor the unique intersection of the divine and the human in the person of Jesus the Christ. It is the stuff of Christmas pageants and creches the world over.
But the picture which Matthew offers is far from cozy. Because the entry of the Christ into the life of the world is a challenge to every system that tries to deny the primacy of Love’s healing desire. In Matthew’s gospel that system of fear is personified by King Herod. Already in the second chapter of Matthew the stage is set for a drama in which Love’s transforming energy will be resisted by powers concerned only with keeping the status quo of the Roman Empire.
I am often struck by how the ancient is so often mirrored in the present. This year, the last Christmas piece to be put away at the Long-Higgins’ house will be the creche scene you see pictured here. Maybe you have seen a creche scene like this before, but I am guessing many have not. I purchased this creche in Bethlehem from Christian Palestinian woodworkers who incorporated the present realities of the separation barrier (or wall) between Israel and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank. This wall which runs next to Bethlehem is juxtaposed with the ancient story of the world’s coming to worship a new and different reality in which Love’s healing presence reaches deep into the least likely of people and forms a new beginning.
You will see from the picture that the separation barrier is symbolized by four sections and a tower. Throughout Advent one portion of the wall is tipped over each week on the journey toward the birth of the Christ and the journey of the magi (aka the world) toward Love’s inbreaking anew. The guard tower is laid down on Christmas, marking the elimination of every barrier which would try to deny contact with Love’s holy new arrival.
I find this symbolic representation of Love’s removal of every barrier to be quite powerful. It causes me to ask what I call “holy Epiphany questions”. I am sure that you have your own set of holy questions that guide you like a star. Here are some of mine: In what ways have I built barriers that need to be dismantled so that others may know of Love’s healing presence and truth? Are there barriers that I have the power to tip over? What are they and who might join with me in the tipping? When I discover the pulse of Christ-presence, am I taking time to notice, give thanks and allow myself to be overwhelmed with joy? What gift am I carrying that is meant to be given over to this discovery of Christ-love at work in the world and in me?
It seems to me that holy questions are often the star that guides us in our lives, either knowingly or unknowingly. What are your questions? With whom will you share them so that you find yourself joined on the journey? If you are willing, I would love to hear your questions. I will hold them close to my heart (firstname.lastname@example.org). Friends may we continue to find ourselves strengthened for the journey as we open to each other and to Love’s leading. And may joy be given room to rise as every barrier to Love is broken down. Happy New Year to you and Godspeed!