We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star.
I just celebrated my 60th Christmas. And for the 60th time, just over a week later, yesterday we bore witness to the arrival of the three kings who came to adore the Baby Jesus. Father told us in his homily that it likely took the wise men over a year to make their way to Bethlehem.
Now if I had been using my head, it would have registered before now that the wise men weren’t able to jump into their private jet with gold, frankincense and myrrh in their carry-ons, and get to the stable just in time to see the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger before the Holy Family took off for Nazareth. Nevertheless, the kings are always portrayed as kneeling in adoration before Jesus in the stable.
Perhaps I have been missing the point.
In the Catholic Mass, and perhaps services in other denominations as well, the readings sort of follow a theme. Yesterday’s theme wasn’t difficult to figure out – adoration. Up until the birth of Jesus, the Jews had lived in their little world awaiting the arrival of their savior who would undoubtedly be a powerful warrior who would make all of the various and sundry kings and pharaohs who had been persecuting the Jews for centuries pay for their evil ways.
And instead, they got this little baby, the son of a teenaged girl, too poor to afford a decent roof over the family’s head. And so the Jews decided to keep waiting.
But in the meantime, the wise men, representing the world beyond the Jews, made their way to pay their respect and adoration. Whether they visited the family in Bethlehem the week after the baby’s birth or a year later, they paid their respects in place of us. They revealed the arrival of a savior to the entire world (which, admittedly, was quite small in those days).
And imagine the Jew’s consternation when, thirty-some years later, St. Paul told them that Jesus Christ was the savior for the Gentiles too, as he did in our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. That, my friends, must have come as quite a shock to them after all they had gone through for centuries. “I wandered through the desert eating locusts, emptying sand out of my sandals, and sweating like a dog and you Johnny-Come-Latelys are also saved? That doesn’t quite work for me.”
Hard to blame them.
But since the theme of the readings was adoration, I was reminded that I must never forget to literally and figuratively fall on my knees in thanksgiving for the gift of life that God has given to me.
Oh come let us adore him.