This week we celebrated epiphany, partly because it also happens to be my oldest son’s birthday. I read the story of the wise men coming to find Jesus to my 6 year old boy. He was very annoyed with me because he’s ‘heard this story dozens of times’ and wanted me to re-read Jonah, his personal favorite. Before you go thinking I may be raising a prophet I should tell you: it’s his favorite because in the Jesus Storybook Bible there is a picture of all the sailors in the boat turning green because they’re sea-sick from the storm. That’s why it’s his favorite.
Anyway, as I was reading the story it dawned on me that the wise men had been waiting for a sign for a really, really long time. Then, when the sign did finally come they followed it around for a really, really long time. On camel. They studied about the coming of this new King and knew to be on the look out.
Yet, they were still caught off guard by the reality of the Christ-child, his whole who, when, where, and how.
They thought they knew.
This new King was not to be found in a palace, but in a humble home with humble parents. He was not being raised with cushions and crowns but as the child of a carpenter. Nothing fancy, nothing special.
As I read that story to my kid for the 20th time I found myself wondering – if I had to look for Jesus how far would I go? Would I leave my comfortable life and head out for who-knows-how-long?
I also find myself about the people waiting on Christ, who don’t even know that they are waiting. I see them standing on the corners everywhere in my city, holding card board signs. I run into them in stores, or at the doctor’s office. People don’t know what kind of Love waits for them.
It can become paralyzing when you allow yourself to realize the amount of suffering that takes place in the world. There’s a name for what it’s called but I can’t remember right now. Basically, we humans become so overwhelmed by images of starvation, natural disasters, and deep poverty that rather than allow us to feel it our brains shuts it off. It’s a defense mechanism, and it causes apathy. We become desensitized.
I’m desensitized. I drive by people looking for something, coins, food, booze, whatever, and I pretend not to see them. I do. I do that. I just can’t deal with the magnitude of their problems. I can’t fix it. I can’t pull a Francis Chan and bring a homeless person home with me. I can’t put them up in a house or a hotel. I can’t fix their life so I choose to do nothing, to not even see the person.
It dawned on me the other day, though, that it’s not my job to fix it all. I can offer them a small piece of a giant puzzle. I can make a small gesture on behalf of Christ like sharing a meal at McDonalds. I know it’s not whole foods and that the trans fats are terrible but it’s something. I can see them. I remember years ago on a mission trip the pastor working with my youth group said that when people are homeless they become invisible, which is defeating and de-humanizing. The invisibility further removes a person from our society.
I wonder what would have happened if the magi had not seen Christ because he was not in a palace. What if he had been ignored because he didn’t look like people thought he would or should? Jesus still would have been Jesus, but our story of the three wise men would be very different. In fact, I think the wise men would not be part of the story if they hadn’t seen Jesus.
I want to be part of the story of Christ, I am part of the story of Christ. I have to see beyond what I think I know.