Why are we here?
Our Gospel tells us that the movement of humankind towards God begins with God…. God choosing an engaged involvement over an aloof and untouchable separateness.

When we read this gospel we are reading our own story, the story of our journey to God. Like the Magi, we are often called to God from far off places, distances often of our own making. We might have to struggle through deserts and ask others to show us the way. Like the Magi, we often make our way through indifference, hostility, politics, even scandal…and then we find the one we are to worship as Savior and King. In many ways, we have tamed this story with talk of kings, crowns, and camels. We often forget it is about real people seeking someone, seeking the light, that we all hope to find.

If one word were used to sum up this gospel it would be inclusiveness. In fact, the whole Christmas story is about inclusiveness, starting at the beginning.

The first to come to the stable are shepherds not as we see them on Christmas cards, but real shepherds who were considered the crooks at the time, looked down upon, avoided by decent folk, people you sic the dog on. And they are the ones chosen to be the first to hear that God has touched earth.

Then the Magi: outsiders, not Jewish, Pagans, a Jew could not let them into his house because they were ritually impure. They were not to be trusted or encouraged to stay around. So the two groups who were invited and guided to the stable were the most despised and the most rejected.

Isn’t that what the gospel is all about? Where do we find Jesus most of the time? Who is He with? The most despised.

That is why our church must be attentive to people whose lives have been fractured, people who turn away from our church because they did not feel welcome, people who are told their lives are disoriented. The Eucharist is not a reward for good behavior, it is food for the journey.

What does all this tell us?
It tells us that if we have ever felt rejected, we belong at the stable. If we have somehow not measured up to other people’s standards, we belong at the stable. If we have sinned or separated ourselves from God, we belong at the stable. It is interesting that when they had found the Lord, the Magi entered the stable, and not a word was spoken. Perhaps words could not convey all they had found. The One whom the whole universe cannot contain, now enclosed in a tiny baby…. they look, they believe. The only thing they could do was fall on their knees, and offer Him their gifts. They wanted to give Him something. As the New Year begins, I leave you with a question: As you come forward to receive Him today, what will you give Him?

I heard a story on the public radio last year; it was about an elderly African-American woman from the Bronx. A few days after 9/11 she heard that a doctor who was helping with the survivors injured his leg, but he kept going, using a piece of wood instead of a cane.

She made her way down through intense security to lower Manhattan, to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, a center of rescue operations. For that elderly woman, it was a journey as difficult and hazardous as the Magi’s. She wanted to give a gift to the doctor who, like many others, was working around the clock. She gave him her cane to help him walk.

I do not know what motivated that simple but profound act. But I can imagine that she must surely have had her eyes open wide, searching for something or someone greater than herself. There he was, in the middle of the dead and dying, and she came and offered her simple gift of homage, and went home. All the noble people who had been working so hard were stunned into silence by such a simple act of kindness.

The Christ child is no longer in the stable, He grew up. You cannot go and worship Him. Better still, you can come here and receive Him, and offer your gift to the other Christs…. they are sitting all around you.

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