Today is the official end of the Christmas season in the Christian liturgical year. Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the visit of the wise men or the magi to the baby Jesus. According to Matthew’s Gospel they brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The magi travelled a long way to find Jesus. They made an intentional journey to see this royal (some even believe divine) baby and bring it gifts. And such gifts! Gold is well, GOLD! Alright, Frankincense and myrrh aren’t such hot commodities any more, but at that time, it was like bringing diamonds and a fancy car with a state of the art baby carrier.
The gifts are symbolic of course. The baby receives very valuable things befitting a royal child of the line of King David. Who knows, perhaps the gold was used to bribe officials in Egypt to let this refugee family into the country to escape the crazy King Herod who was trying to kill him?
In honor of the magi, pause a minute and reflect on the gifts you received recently during this holiday season. Were any of them MAGI-cal? Did any of them come from wise people or important people in your life and/or from someone who travelled a long way (physically or metaphorically) to give them to you? Did of any of them make you feel like the special, royal, even divine person you are? I received a number of MAGI-cal gifts this year.
One MAGI-cal gift was from my landlord, as magi-like a landlord as you’ll find. My landlord asked me if Unitarian Universalists put out manger scenes. I gave him a very long-winded answer about christology and soteriology and Unitarian views of Jesus, all to end up telling him “Yes, some of us do.” He wanted to know if I did. I said that I did, but somewhere in my move from Texas a few years ago I lost a very special nativity set given to me by an old friend. It was made of clay and she got it for me in South America. My landlord then presented me with a carved wooden nativity set made in Cameroon. I finally had a replacement for my lost nativity set.
Another MAGI-cal gift came from a vendor at Hopedale’s Winter Stroll. I struck up a conversation with a vendor selling Christmas ornaments made from seashells. I told her that my grandmother had published two books in the 1970s about making crafts from pinecones and seashells. I described for the vendor a dozen of her shell ornaments that hung on my tree. Hours later when she left our parish hall, she gave me one of her ornaments.
I am a Red Sox fan. I have a Luis Tiant bobblehead doll on a shelf above my kitchen sink. My parents tell the story that when they divorced I cried for three straight days and nights when my dad moved out of the house. But I cried for an entire week some months later when the Red Sox lost the 1976 World Series to Cincinnati. So, you can imagine how impressed I was this past fall when someone donated a signed photo of Luis Tiant! Tiant was the winning pitcher in the 3 Red Sox victories in that 4 games to 3 loss to the Reds in ‘76. I made a comment on social media that it was probably unethical for me to keep the autographed photo for myself. Turns out I didn’t need to after all. On their way out of church on Christmas Eve one of our families gave a nicely wrapped present. When I opened it home that evening, there it was – the Luis Tiant autographed photo.
A nativity set, a ornament made from a seashell, and an autographed photo. Three gifts more precious to me than gold, frankincense, and myrrh (OK, OK, maybe not the gold). Three gifts that said someone saw me, recognized me as a royal and divine human being and said you are great just the way you are. Three gifts that are truly MAGI-cal.
In our Unitarian Universalist churches we say that each night a child is born is a holy night. We say that each child is a holy child. We proclaim this as part of our faith in the dignity and worth of human beings. This means that you too are a child of God, a savior of the world, a royal and divine being. This year what magi visited you and what MAGI-cal gifts did they bring?