Sunday, January 3, 2016

Three Kings and Company

We three kings from orient are . . .”

Who were the three kings?  Were they really kings or wise men-wizards known as Magi or some other important seekers from foreign lands?  Tradition names them, Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar and we believe they followed a star - a star placed in the sky by God that called them from other lands to witness the birth of the infant Jesus.  We also know they stopped to visit King Herod, as polite protocol dictated because it was not considered prudent to travel into another’s territory without paying your respects, but what else do we know of them?      
We have our imagination to serve us on who were these three travelers come to pay homage to Jesus.  We have no record of their real identity.  We know not exactly from where they came - other than ‘from the East’ or if there were more than three of them or if they were really kings.  We arrive at their number by the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh they bring to the King of kings, the infant Jesus.

A few things we may surmise about the kings.  Despite the popular Christmas card images of three royal individuals traveling alone by camel, kings and other wealthy important people always had an entourage of servants, soldiers and courtiers traveling with them. 
After all, it was dangerous times for anyone to be traveling alone – and someone had to carry and protect the valuable gifts and look after the needs of these important persons.  - And, we can assume that these foreigners were Gentiles, not Jews.  Herod most likely would have known them if they were Jewish royalty.

In this story God shows that He calls all people to Himself in Christ Jesus.  Leading these Gentile kings to Jesus is God’s desire for all His children come to Him and receive His gift of new life found in His Son.  He asks all people to witness His Good News of Light coming into the world; bringing what we have seen to others, so that His love may be known by all people.

The angel-messengers appeared not to Herod or other Jewish leaders – not to the power and might of Israel - who would use it to their own purpose, but to these foreigners, these Gentiles - and to the lowly, to shepherds and servants.  These, - whom the powerful considered unworthy, - God calls to witness His glory and to bring away what they have seen and experienced to the all the world. 

The Word made flesh, from the very moment of His birth, spreads God’s message of love through those - whom the Father calls to witness the birth of the Son. 

He calls them to sing the first notes of the song of salvation to the world.
He calls them to share what they have seen and heard, so that hope may be made known in the birth of the Christ-child; bringing everlasting joy and peace to the world.

He calls them to see the great light that comes to banish the darkness – His light that leads to love and newness of life – so that all may share in the Father’s love and mercy; leading all to everlasting life.

Each of us, - in our station in life, - is called by God, just as were the shepherds and the three kings, along with their servants, to witness God’s glory, - to follow His star - and proclaim His wonders that lead others to Jesus Christ.  We too are called - to take away with us the miracles we have seen, - and the Word we have heard – to sing God’s praise, and proclaim His Good News - that this Jesus, this Son of the Living God, is Lord - to all we meet wherever we journey in the world. ~Amen.

Deacon Don

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord

“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

Each time I hear this phrase in scripture I wonder at what Mary did keep in her heart.  I try to image how a young girl in her times reacted to these astonishing things that were happening to her. 

The appearance of an angel!

Hearing who sent the angel! 

The angel’s message! 

The astonishing news about her cousin Elizabeth!

And now while pregnant, after making an arduous trip to Bethlehem; she gives birth to her son in a stable. All these things have to be playing on her mind and in her heart.  Here is her child, the one who is to lead his people, Israel, arriving under less than glorious conditions.  Mary may have been asking herself, “What next, Lord?”

And what was next were the shepherds. 

Shepherds arriving at the stable had to be remarkable in of itself.  Shepherds, by virtue of their lifestyles, rarely came into town.  Their lives were spent in the hills and meadows tending their sheep; protecting them from predators and their own lack of good judgement (more on sheep at another time).  The shepherds couldn’t just leave their flocks alone in the hills, so in all likelihood they arrived with their sheep.  A visual wonder with an overpowering odor and noise for Mary to reflect on.

And these shepherds bring Mary the news of what was told to them by the angel and all that they had seen and heard.  This too she kept in her heart as she contemplated the child in her arms; nursing at her breast.

I like to think on the strength of Mary and her calm acceptance of all these amazing things happening to this young girl chosen by God to bring Emmanuel, God-with-us, into the world.  Only the most perfect Mother of God could calmly live these experiences without doubts, fears or hesitations – accepting all these things, reflecting on them in her heart: remembering what had been told her by the angel – accepting the truth of God with complete faith and love.

Deacon Don