Epiphany Sunday is one of my favorite days. (I spent a whole chapter of my first book, The Boundary Breaking-God, talking about all the reasons why.) Yes, the camels help. I do love camels.
But mostly, it’s the magi.
The magi were outsiders who came an unfathomable distance to honor an infant king they shouldn’t have even known about. They brought gifts of great value and honor. They were tossed off the trail by a wicked ruler who was terrified of losing his power to this new king. They were wise enough to see through his guise, and they disobeyed his orders to return to him and tell him where they found the king. Instead, they went home by another way.
And that’s all we ever hear about them.
I kind of love that.
Scripture doesn’t say they stopped being pagan astrologists. It doesn’t say they started a house church or started converting people. What it does show is that they knew the deepest truth about the Holy One before a lot of other people knew it, and they were, along with the animals and the shepherds and angels, among the first to worship him. In the first thirty years of Jesus’ life, that small group of people were the only ones who worshipped him as the One True King.
God bless the magi. They knew things. They got it.
And God bless them because they did not fit the mold of the other people in the gospels who got it. (And, let’s be honest, that’s already a pretty motley crew.)
I love this because so much of Western Christianity expects your faith to look a certain way, to evidence itself in a very specific set of actions and reactions. And the magi fly in the face of all of that in very uncomfortable ways. I have encountered so many deeply faithful people who do not really fit in with the typical church crowd. (I’ve never much fit that mold myself.) We love Jesus. We would travel MILES and embark on arduous journeys to meet him, to lay our treasures at his feet. And then we would go home by another way, and stay faithful to the Christ-in-us that led us there in the first place, even if it never makes a mark on anyone’s “faithfulness” radar ever again.
So I want to offer a blessing today to those of you who feel more like the magi than the disciples. Maybe you’re miles from the center of this story in a lot of ways, while the center of the story nonetheless holds true at the center of your heart. Maybe you can’t figure out how to make church make sense, or organized religion make sense. Baby, maybe you’re the one who sticks out like a sore thumb if one was to take a picture of all the Jesus followers in any given locale. Maybe your culture is different and your accent is different and you see the world differently than all the other Jesus people around you. Maybe you’re the Queen of Sheba in a sea of King Davids, and don’t you for one second think that’s not okay. Maybe all you have is gifts of great honor and a desire to worship the King. That’s enough.
Epiphany is your story. It’s the story of all of us who follow Jesus on the side streets of organized religion.
Know that your faith counts. Know that when you bear witness to the Christ Child, it matters. In fact, perhaps it can transform those so deep in the system they could use some fresh eyes. People who, pardon the pun, could use an epiphany.
So bless you, as you go home by another way. Trust that God is with you wherever you go.