Snow Sunday! Roads into the village are clear one way though not further: much phoning and the wonders of e-communication have allowed Services to be re-negotiated. So instead of my heading over the hills and across a field, for Christingle, and even further along dark, high-banked lanes to a more remote church for Evensong, they've had their Service sheets by email [they already had the hymns]. Up and down the valley, clergy have swapped services to avoid travelling too far, and encouraged Church Wardens to lead the services wherever possible.
In this village, with people from a different, cancelled service, we spoke of the Wise Men, of the different forms they have taken over the centuries - through imagination, art, poetry - to represent 'all' Gentiles. The original [Matthew 2:1-12] tells so little, only that wise men came from the East and bore 3 gifts - we have clothed them in majesty, given them names, reduced them to 3 Kings, and placed them firmly on camels.
What they saw, in the end, cannot have been what they were expecting. They were tracking a King: so they looked for him in a palace, and brought symbolic presents that must have looked singularly out of place to Mary and Joseph, and the child Jesus - although part of me likes to believe that ‘symbols’ have many different values, practical as well as representative, and perhaps each gift helped the little family to survive in their flight, and exile in Egypt.
Not for the Magi the direct visitation of the angels, with clear instructions on how to find the baby: that is reserved for the shepherds. The wise men follow the bright, enigmatic star, using their intelligence to plot its path, making assumptions in their visit to Herod - and with what fatal consequences.
They came to search for Jesus, representing all of us Gentiles - everyone [which is to say, Greeks and Turks, Serbs and Albanians, Tutsi and Hutu, Israeli & Palestinians] together with the Jews -- what is now, in the 21st century, a multi-national church of God. BIG questions for the start of the new decade: essentially involving church with open doors? or closed.. what nature of welcome can we bring to this melting pot; and at the bottom of it all, are we gift-bearers or gift-receivers - or both (which changes everything).