Three “wise men” (sometimes referred to as magi or kings) were actually astrologers who looked to the stars to discern divine intent. Changes in the stars meant that something was afoot. Something big. So, in the Gospel for today, the Epiphany of the Lord, we hear of the wise men who stepped out of obscurity to pursue and then encounter that something big.
In “The Little Drummer Boy” (first recorded by the Von Trapp Family singers some 60 years ago), we learn of a fictitious boy, poor, without family and who also stepped out from obscurity and then along with the wise men encountered Christ. Humbly, perhaps filled with shame, he felt he had nothing to offer… certainly nothing that could compare to the riches of gold, frankincense and myrrh that the wise men gave. Instead, he gave what he had… a small moment of entertainment, a soothing rhythm for the child, thus earning him Mary’s nod and Jesus’ smile.
I mention this fairytale, song-inspired story because of the contrast to the wise men’s story. Their quest was intentional, the boy’s accidental. They humbled themselves yet offered great and wonderful gifts. We hear nothing of the response to those gifts, but we learn of the impact of the simple gift offered by the poor child. Contrast.
This is, in some ways, our story too. And it is only through our pursuit and encounter with Jesus that we avoid eternal obscurity.
And we come to him in many ways.
In Japan, there is a tradition, an art form called kintsugi whereby pottery and china are repaired when broken with a bonding compound mixed typically with golden powder. This mixture not only repairs the item but it makes it stronger, more beautiful… more valuable. The brokenness is not hidden, it is recognized, honored.
And this is our encounter with Jesus. We can be healed, forgiven, restored and ultimately saved.
This is what pulls us out from a meaningless, obscure existence and gives us our strength and our beauty.
This is why we pursue him.