Including today, there are actually three more days of Christmas. Three more days to especially praise God for the gift of the Christ child, sent to heal the sins of the world. Three more days to especially praise God for becoming the Love that Came Down, the Love that Comes Down to dwell among us. Yet we are celebrating the Epiphany today, the festival that comes right on the heels of the twelve days of Christmas and which this year would land on Wednesday of this week. Epiphany; the occasion of the wise men – or wise guys as I sometimes fondly think of them – the wise men arriving to visit the baby Jesus, presenting him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gifts fit for a king.
Now, I imagine that we all know that the best gifts are the ones that money can’t buy.
University Lutheran Church and the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing, Michigan, know something about the gifts that money can’t buy. Their relationship with one another, started back in the 1970s as they were both working on campus ministry, has been one of mutual support and upbuilding. They share a parking lot and a playground but much, much more. And they have even pushed each other, in good ways, to grow. Several years ago, University Lutheran Church invited their Muslim neighbors to join them for “God’s Work, Our Hands” Sunday, packing care packages for homeless and hungry folks. Then the Islamic Society challenged University Lutheran to consider doing more to care for the earth by joining them in installing solar arrays on their roof – they even gave them a gift of $25,000 to encourage them! (Living Lutheran, Dec. 29th, 2020)
The best gifts truly are the ones that money can’t buy. Health. The healing and restoration of broken relationships. Peace in place of grief. Understanding built across differences and an ending of the hatred that fuels “isms” and “obias” such as racism, sexism, Islamophobia, etc... The healing of God’s good green earth. Peace in place of war. You can add your own items to this list. This list of gifts that money can’t buy.
Oh, the wise men may have presented gifts to the baby Jesus, but in reality, they were but tokens, given to the Sovereign of all Creation, to the Savior of Love and Truth to whom we pray for help for all of the things that really matter. And God has answered our prayers, deigning to come down in humility to dwell among us; to start again the story of new creation made possible in love through Christ. No wonder the wise men are so often pictured on bended knee – how else would it be appropriate to greet the Savior of Love and Truth?
So maybe this could also be our humble posture on the occasion of celebrating the Epiphany, or during the twelve days of Christmas, or all year long. To come on bended knee, adoring the newborn Savior of Love and Truth. Presenting ourselves as token of devotion and gladness to the Author of all Creation. Presenting our lives and all of who we are, in hopes of joining in efforts such as the people of University Lutheran and their partnership with the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing, Michigan; presenting our lives to Jesus so that the transforming work of God through Christ might lift these lives in all their frailty to be a light unto the nations; a sign of the God of Love and Truth come down.
As most of us may know, the celebration of the Epiphany and presentation of gifts by the wise men to the baby Jesus is where our gift-giving tradition for Christmas actually originates. In some countries, like Belgium in Europe, small gifts are given on the Epiphany while Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are kept exclusively for worship and eating with family and friends. So, now that the Christmas wrapping has hit the recycling bins, and our trees, if they are still up, begin to look a bit drab; now might be the perfect time to ask ourselves what gifts really matter most, and how we might devote ourselves to the greatest gift of all time, our Savior who is the Christ. Amen.