So by now you should have 10 partridges and the attendant pear trees; 18 turtle doves; 24 French Hens;28 colley birds;30 gold rings;30 geese a laying;28 swans; 24 maids milking and I assume the milk that they milked; 18 ladies dancing and 10 Lords a leaping. Lots of gifts are there but of course we still worship the child laid in manger hay as the great gift. Think of all the other great gifts we have. The continuing Government shut down is a gift because it helps us see that all these self important running from Hawaii to Washington and being caravanned in motorcades and feted at banquets and chased by reporters are really petulant children who will waste 180 billion dollars and quibble over five and who argue over the difference between security and a wall. These are folks who want to declare “illegal immigrant” to be hate talk and therefore should be banned and refuse to allow police to communicate with one another over illegality. We have another gift that you might have lost sight of and that is the fact that Facebook is one of the largest money making projects in the world and that the only product they have to sell is you. Think of that – the high and mighty in the stratosphere of riches has you as their only project. All that effort to try and figure out what you like and appreciate and buy and sell and how you live is so important to some, while the class we vote into office to represent us couldn’t care less about what we want or think until the next election comes round. Those are great gifts of understanding that you should appreciate and weigh carefully when you do vote, if you do.
We await the coming of the wise men and the end of Christmas. This time is a gift in so many ways because it teaches us that our faith and part in the Kingdom of God is something that we are programed to dismiss. This story of the coming of the Magi to Jerusalem and the interaction with Herod is a story that means that there is no separation between politics and religion. There is no distinction in the Gospels between the public and the private. Everything the Wise Men do is a political as well as a religious act. The very fact that they want to perform a religious act, that is worship a new born king, is cause for political action; executive action, with extreme prejudice.
In our way of thinking Herod would have said “let these crazy folks go. They are clinging to astrology and their horoscopes and as long as they keep it to themselves and don’t hurt anyone let them go and help them find what they are looking for if you can. You say the Bible says that the king will be born in Bethlehem in Judea? Ok send them on their way and let them mind their own business. I’m the King and some wacky religious kooks can’t change that. Let them believe what they want as long as they keep it too themselves and don’t impose it on anyone else”. Epiphany gives us a gift of understanding that that is impossible. The very fact that these wise men exist and want to worship someone they call a King is destructive and cannot be ignored, and the same is true today. Politics cannot ignore religion so it has to subsume, corral, or relegate it to the background. Politics must by definition equate the kingdoms and political entities of this world with the ultimate authority of the Kingdom of God. The best ways of subsuming is corrupting and using its language. As Stanley Hauerwas has written in commentary on Matthew, “The temptation for Christians in modernity is to equate the kingdom with ideals that we assume represent the best of human endeavor: freedom, equality, justice, respect for the dignity of each person. These are all worthy goals that Christians have every reason to support, but goals that are not in themselves the kingdom. To equate these ideals with the kingdom is to separate the kingdom from the one who proclaims the kingdom. “Jesus is Himself the established Kingdom of God” (Barth 1936–77,
2.2.177). Or in Origen’s classical phrase, Jesus is the autobasileia—the kingdom in person (1926, 498)..* Governments will use those religious concepts to corrupt and subsume what should be the new politics of the people of God. So Pelosi can lecture us about a wall being immoral and Romney can bloviate about character while neither one of them are exhibiting either morality of character, nor can they explain the character of morality. So Jesus is the Kingdom of God and the rulers of the world have to at least drag him in at some point in their pointless lectures and nonsense about “who we are” and “what our values are”.
The gift of the magi for us should be an understanding that there is a political statement being made by the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in Judea at the time of King Herod and there is a political statement being made everytime you say Jesus is Lord or pray “thy KIngdom Come”.
*Stanley Hauerwas, “Matthew – Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible” 2006