They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route. Matthew 2:11-12, CEB
In Chapter 8 of Accidental Saints, The title of this chapter, to set the stage for our conversation today, is “The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents of Sandy Hook Elementary” – this helps us understand that cheesy Christmas stuff was not working for Nadia this particular year. (Surely you remember Sandy Hook? If not, google it.) Nadia talks about her friend Debbie Blue’s (Sensual Orthodoxy Saint Paul. MN: Cathedral Hill Press, 2003) perspective on “weird things creeping into nativity scenes.” She gave examples like seeing a pig in a crèche scene – which, oh by the way, I have in my nativity scene at home. It never occurred to me that it’s unlikely that a pig would be at Jewish Jesus’ birth.
Here are some other facts her chapter brought to my attention:
- We don’t know how many people brought gifts to Jesus. (We sing the song, “We Three Kings…” but the BIBLE doesn’t specify.)
- We don’t know that they came from the Orient – just the East.
- Jesus was in a house, not a barn.
- These dudes were definitely not kings, they were magi. Magicians. According to Nadia, they were “opportunistic, pagan, soothsaying, tarot-card-reading astrologers”.
In fact, the only king in the story is Herod – and he’s the enemy! More on HIM tomorrow. But for today, get curious. If you’ve made assumptions about people, traditions and even theological truths, this is a great time of year to make a commitment to humility, curiosity and education in the coming year!