“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”
The Christmas Festival presented us with familiar characters. Among the supporting cast were the three kings, the wise men. As I reflected on them again this year what struck me was how their their sumptuous gifts and silken robes seemed oddly out of place among the general rudeness of the manger scene. What are these royal intellectuals doing kneeling before a tiny child among animals and crusty shepherds out in the middle of nowhere?
With their gifts and obeisance, the wise men were acknowledging the One to whom their life’s obligations, energies and resources now belonged. The picture of kings kneeling is a picture of the transfer of allegiance, loyalty, duty, power. It was to Whom they knelt that matters. Trust, faith, is always defined by it’s object.
When you and I were baptized, we were given a name; God’s name. Our baptism, among other things, testified to the fact that we now belong to the God who we know as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our baptism was a statement about who we belong to, who has the last word in our lives. For whoever has the last word is our God.
Baptism rearranges our loyalties, transfers our citizenship in such a way that we become the protagonists, representatives, advocates of the kingdom of God. We proclaim “good news of great joy”, the reign of life in the midst of the reign of death. This means the shadow of Good Friday always falls over the Christmas manger. For we are not only the beneficiaries of God’s reign, we participate in God’s reign, which means we are carriers and proclaimers of the cross.
You are not your own. In baptism he claimed you and gave you the Holy Spirit. The last Word belongs to God. At Christmas, the Christ mass, the Christ worship, you knelt before this God, this same God that was born to an unwed mother, surrounded by animal dung, smelly shepherds and kings who radically altered their allegiance. Watch out! If this is the God who has taken hold of you in baptism, who has the last word in your life, you just know that whatever life he has in store for you is not going to be business as usual!
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”