Coffee shops have a culture, an etiquette of their own, fashioned by digital technology and personal service, one complementing the other. The Christmas story, highlighted today by the Three Kings, is like that. An old and personal story wrapped in the wave of another generation, one complementing the other.
There are so many intriguing aspects of that story: the phenomenon of the star itself embraced by astronomers and captured by story tellers and artists; the simplicity of the manger versus the grandeur of learned kings; the gifts themselves: gold, frankincense and myrrh, symbolic or purposeful. And then the inevitable contrast with shepherds and the more humble gift of presence.
The narrative itself inspires wonder and skepticism, and thousands of questions. What happened to the gold, for example? Why choose the frankincense and myrrh, what meaning did the choices have? What sort of curiosity impels such movement? And what of the cruelty of governments that so fear new life? What of the conscience of those who slaughter newborns?
But then, there is the firmness of revelation: those all mirror human experiences in the world we share today. Every aspect of the story bears a resemblance to the tensions, the skepticism, the curiosity, the symbolism, the cruelty that too often characterizes human interaction. This story, often relegated to childhood storybooks, belongs to adults as well.
Ours is a world of seismic change socially and politically, even financially. And ours is a world where the discouraging word, the anger of cynicism and frustration smolder relentlessly, and certainty and wisdom seem more elusive than ever. And yet, everyday brings the miracle of new life, the birth of new hope, and the possibility of real change. All of it so visible, even in the darkest of nights, to the attentive. And each of us can bring what we have to the moment, to recognizing and marking that before moving on. In some way, the Epiphany offers what we need for the journey ahead.
The Epiphany invites us to curiosity about Jesus, the teachings and the beginnings, the roots. The Epiphany reassures us of the most ordinary aspects of life, and that each of us somehow has a place, a role in the story going forward. And it is a reminder that Presence is a constant in life. How it is honored is a choice, a decision or series of decisions. The presents of the Magi are meaningful as presence, a humble testimony to the Presence within the world of the ordinary. That belongs to all of us.