I am humbled and grateful for the people reminding me to post each week. I apologise that it is late. I had the opportunity to put together a little liturgy including this reflection at my church. Like a miracle, the minute (ie after a few months) I committed to writing this blog weekly God started throwing me back in the way for little opportunities to do the work I love! That connects with the reflection itself as the frankincense of my life that I am finding to offer after all!
I want to keep the words I use short as I think the readings have already given us a rich tapestry of images to work with. So I will just briefly highlight a couple that strike me…
… images of people from far away, with different cultures and beliefs yet drawn to the beauty and transformative power of God embodied in Jesus. I think it is very important to note that they come, give their gifts to Jesus and then return to their own country and presumably their own way of life. This is not a conversion story giving us permission to colonise others, it is a story of trusting, as believers, that God is big enough to be noticed by people from other places, people who will use their own beliefs and traditions to come to the one we call Christ in their own way.
Another image is of the smallness and vulnerability of God in this story: Jesus is a tiny baby, passive and waiting and receptive for the action of others. In a world that tells us that what is active and acting and ruling is important, Jesus dares to be the weaker half of a relationship. God here as a tiny baby draws people in, presence is shown to be greater and more mysterious than mere power.
So what of us? As the magi we can travel to be in the presence of God and stop asking what God will “do” or trying to have beliefs or rituals or to justify that thing we call faith. We are simply drawn into presence by God as we are by babies who wrap their tiny fingers around our larger fingers and bring our chattering hearts to silence in awe and adoration. We come into the presence not just to ask for something, not to cower as before an overlord or to appease God. We kneel down to the baby’s level and we simply love, we simply gaze in love.
We are called to be like the magi and leave aside the “rational” in order to waste a lot of time following an elusive star to bring our gifts to this baby who neither tries to control us not is really owned by us.
The gifts are gold- sometimes this is said to symbolise kingship. What else might it symbolise? All the material wealth that we have, all of our resources that we control and decide about. All the status and power and influence we have in society and in our smaller communities. This we bring and gift to Jesus. What if we used the gold of our resources and our influence for God’s reign? I am not advocating some sort of radical giving-up of the good things in life: far from it. But how can we enjoy the great things we have in the fairest way that most furthers God’s interests?
Then there is frankincense sometimes seen as a gift of priesthood. Do we bring our priesthood to Jesus? By priesthood I mean our call to take Christ and break with Christ and distribute the body of Christ to feed people’s spirits. Our spiritual gifts, our identity, our deepest desires and knowledge brought to the waiting, patient baby-who-is-God. Each of us has some sort of a call to minister to the spiritual reality of our church and we do that well here by sharing the ministry. Where else are we called to be priests? In our workplace? In our daily struggle?
Finally there is myrrh, often said to symbolise death. Do we bring the myrrh of opening our eyes and hearts to noticing suffering and darkness and death in the world? Do we refuse to let faith be simply escapism as we bring myrrh to the human suffering one, the one who will die a horrible death rather than turn aside from integrity. I wouldn’t want to look for suffering and death – I certainly don’t want to be crucified. But perhaps I am called to walk with the Christ who suffers oppression, exploitation, silencing or death?
The Herods of this world would prevent us bringing these gifts to God. It would be more convenient for rulers like Herod if we did not dare to connect all that we have and all that we are to God’s interests. And yet we are here at the epiphany, yearning toward the quietly waiting baby- arms and hearts aching to hold the tiny bundle of fullness of life.
You may wish to reflect upon the gifts that are implicit in the gold of your life, frankincense of your identity and myrrh of your compassion. Or there may be other images in today’s readings that grab you more and after reflecting you may wish to share a small part of your thoughts with others.