And they went home a different way by the Rev. Spencer Hatcher

Tomorrow is the official day of the Feast of Epiphany. The 12-day season of Christmas is complete. Three things are traditionally celebrated during Epiphany- the visit of the Magi, Jesus’ baptism, and his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana. Each of these three events reveal (which is the meaning of the word, ‘epiphany’) something about the nature of Christ.

As a woman, I’ve never felt that the story of the Three Wise Men, or the Magi, was really about me. That is, I’ve never been able to see myself in the story. And even when I tried, when I replaced “men” with “people”, it still didn’t connect. Why would these men (we actually have no idea how many there were- only that there were three gifts) bring these three particular gifts, two of which were to be used for burying the just-born God-child? And why, if they could dream dreams, did they not anticipate that their conversation with Herod was a bad idea? Why only after they gave him information that helped facilitate the slaughter of the innocents?

Godly play asks a question that I’ve come to love. It’s this: I wonder which part of the story we could leave out and still have everything we need.

The wise men, I would answer.

The wise men.

Today, the day before the feast of the Epiphany, the day before we celebrate the coming of the Magi, I stumbled upon this poem by Jan Richardson[1]:

wise women also came.

The fire burned

in their wombs

long before they saw

the flaming star

in the sky.

They walked in shadows,

trusting the path

would open

under the light of the moon.

 

wise women also came,

seeking no directions,

no permission

from any king.

They came

by their own authority,

their own desire,

their own longing.

They came in quiet,

spreading no rumors,

sparking no fears

to lead

to innocents’ slaughter,

to their sister Rachel’s

inconsolable lamentations.

 

wise women also came,

and they brought

useful gifts:

water for labor’s washing,

fire for warm illumination,

a blanket for swaddling.

wise women also came,

at least three of them,

holding Mary in the labor,

crying out with her

in the birth pangs,

breathing ancient blessings

into her ear.

 

wise women also came,

and they went,

as wise women always do,

home a different way

Now these wise women I understand completely. And to me, they reveal, differently, the nature of Christ in the story that we’re given in the Gospel of Matthew. Because as the season of Christmas is coming to a close, I too can feel myself walking in the shadows, knowing not where the path leads but trusting that, by the light of the moon, of hope, of faith, there might be a destination. And I, too, come bearing gifts that I deeply hope will be helpful, rather than symbolic or foreshadowing- water, fire, whispers of reminders and promises and prayers. And while I’ve perhaps never intended it, I don’t often leave the way I came.

In fact, maybe never.

Do you?

Have you come because you saw the wild star jumping brightly in the sky? Have you come bearing only the best and the beautiful things to lay at the foot of Christ? Or, perhaps, like me, have you followed a path lit by something different, carrying only all of yourself- the raggedy and mundane held tightly against the bright and extraordinary, to offer to the child; to the world?

Either way, we all go home differently than how we came.

As transformed people always do.

As we, celebrate the feast of the Epiphany tomorrow (or on Sunday, if you worship here at Epiphany), what gifts do you bear for our Christ? What called you to this road in the first place? What hope do you hold for your journey?

 

[1] “Wise women also Came,” from Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas© Jan Richardson. Orlando, FL: Wanton Gospeller Press, 2010.

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