There can be a dangerous trap for our faith when we celebrate the Three Kings visiting the baby Jesus. It happens when we think, ‘Jesus must have been special, the Three Kings paid him homage!’ The problem with this thinking is that it creates a division in our minds which puts royalty on one side and Jesus on the other. The reality is that in the stable in Bethlehem it was a case of royalty visiting royalty.
When the Magi fell down before Our Lord as a tiny baby and worshipped Him, they were showing their deference to the King of Kings. When they were seeking out baby Jesus, following the star that had guided them from the east, they encountered Herod and made it clear to him that they wanted to adore the Divine Child. The kings, holders of the highest office that an ordinary human person can obtain, were not looking for Jesus so that He would put them on a pedestal, rather they were of the mind to adore Him.
Growing up, I and many of my peers were told the account of the Three Kings as though it were a fairytale based on a historical chain of events. During my adult life I’ve heard many influential people reiterate to me that the events surrounding Our Lord coming into this world were the stuff of fairytale. But dismissing as fantasy or fiction the example set by the Three Kings is an act of self-punishment. I may seem to be exaggerating when I write “self-punishment”, but bear with me.
A fairytale is the stuff of whimsy and magic to distract us from everyday life. Yet the grand spectacle of the Three Kings lowering themselves before the divine infant and offering them their treasures is a crucial example of how we can put our lives right. No matter who we are, we are called to give ourselves to Our Lord.
If we do as the Three Kings and humble ourselves before Our Lord, putting Him first, then it means loving Our Lord is our key priority. When we make ourselves, another person, possessions or money the centre of our attention, we are paying homage to someone or something that will never love us the way Christ does. No one can love us more than Christ.
The Bob Dylan song Gotta Serve Somebody put this in perspective for me. Dylan drawls in his provoking way, “you may be a diplomat with a long string of pearls but you gotta serve someone, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve someone.” You said it, Bob!
Whether we are a street sweeper or a prime minister, or even if we are nobility, we cheat ourselves if we don’t give our will to serving Jesus, as the Three Kings did.
On this day, the Feast of the Epiphany, it is good to keep in mind that the Three Kings rejoiced when they found the baby Jesus. Many of us, myself included, have a lingering reluctance to allow ourselves to show to others our joy at beholding Him. In 2016 you risk being called a religious fanatic by those who think they are more enlightened than people who give their hearts to a child born two thousand years ago. But it is an act of self-giving to orientate our lives to love Jesus above all people and above all things. If we are afraid others will think the less of us, are we not putting our own self-image first?
One cause for discontent among many of my friends is that the Feast of the Epiphany was moved to last Sunday, January 3. I’ve heard some say they feel “short-changed” as though Christmas has been re-scheduled to last nine days. My take is that while the feast was moved, the Church hierarchy did not forbid us from celebrating the Epiphany on the time-honoured day of January 6. Aside from this one day, we can have precious moments of celebrating the Epiphany whenever we offer the joyful mystery of the Nativity, and if we do as the Kings did and make ourselves subject to the Lord, the lesson offered by the Kings becomes our guiding light for every minute of every day.