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January 7, 2018

Yesterday was Epiphany and today is Epiphany Sunday; the magi are on my mind.

I have been reading Walter Brueggemann’s Gift and Task: A Year of Daily Readings and Reflections. He comments that the account of the magi’s visit to pay homage to the infant Jesus right at the start of the gospel narrative (Matthew) underscores the inclusive nature of God’s message. I appreciate this insight and reminder that God’s love is for all people, not just for a select group, whether that be an ethnic or racial group or even a particular religious one. We don’t know the religious affiliation of the magi. We only know that they followed a star in their hopes of finding the promised one. We know, too, that when they entered the house where the baby lay, they were able to recognize a helpless baby as the one they had traveled a great distance to see. Would I have been able to do that...

I like to think about what the authors of the Gospels are telling me, and I refer to the authors of Matthew and Luke since it is only these two of the four Gospels that recount Jesus’ birth. I recall that first it was the humble shepherds from Luke’s account who greeted Jesus. Then, it was the magi, the gentiles and foreigners, from Matthew’s version that sought out the baby Jesus. In neither Matthew nor Luke, does the birth of the Messiah attract the attention of the supposedly righteous and upstanding, learned people of his community. The story of Jesus’ life begins with outsiders, the shepherds and gentiles; they embraced something that others did not.

If I am to imitate the life of Christ, then I need to pay close attention to this not inconsequential detail. The authors of Matthew and Luke, who wanted the readers for centuries to come to know Jesus and the love of God, allow unexpected people to be pivotal characters in Jesus’ narrative. They allow the epiphanies of these peripheral people to inspire me to seek Jesus in unexpected places, and to examine why I have had certain expectations of where God would dwell. The epiphanies of the shepherds and the magi are both my confession and revelation.