"Dad, you make irony into a theological tenet." —Tara
Were you wise or merely kings,
aware of the world or merely shrewd,
scientists or technologists?
Some might say economists,
given our world of wealth
(your mercantile example of love)—
a final quarter shot-in-the-arm
of half our annual retail sales.
Gold certainly was part of your baggage,
a symbol of divinity.
But painters give to silver Judas,
often, that dirty yellow to wear—
the color of medieval heresy
and still contagion's sickly hue
and the bottom line of world order.
Frankincense you also brought,
little suspecting the need, perhaps,
to meliorate the stable redolence
for the God incarnates coming forth,
providing us a legacy
of fragrance measured by the ounce.
The myrrh you brought tells us what
the glorious birth was all about:
anticipation of inglorious death—
that heritage we'll never escape.
But there's that star.
Robert McGovern The Christian Century, 111.36, 14 Dec 1994, p. 1189.
The joy of discovery
when hope and expectation
were gloriously met
by the illumination of one bright star.
We cannot imagine
what words were spoken by visitors
or if first impressions
left them somewhat confused.
Messiah, Saviour, a King
born in the barest of palaces.
Yet they saw and fell down
on their knees in adoration.
Lord, they saw you and knew
whom they had met.
As we meet around crib
candle or advent wreath
draw us into that stable
in our imagination.
In the quiet moments of prayer
this Christmas, that brief oasis
from the bustle of the world
bring alive to us
the smell of the hay
the sound of the animals
the cry of a baby.
Draw us close to our Saviour
Messiah and King as we bring
not Gold, Myrrh or Frankincense
but the gift of our lives
the only offering we can bring.
St. Romanos the Melodist (6th century) The Christmas Troparion (in Arabic)
Christians believe that the most radical and total change in the history of the world happened when God began to speak to us in the voice of a human being—not the voice of a monarch or a philosopher or even a prophet, but the inarticulate voice of a child in need. When we start hearing the voice of God in the cries of the newborn child in the manger, we start being able to hear that voice in the raw humanity of other people. We can't any longer write off the suffering of others on the grounds that they're not really like us—because they're Israeli and not Arab, Catholic and not Protestant or whatever.
Hard political talk can't be avoided but God help us if that's the only focus; we need the embodied signs of hope as well. And my two visitors from the land of Christ's birth and death and resurrection were ambassadors for the freedom to listen without fear and anger and the freedom to act together. And that freedom—deepened and made universal and lasting—is what Jesus was born to achieve for us. This is the new humanity that is born with him on Christmas Day. —Rowan Williams. Christmas Eve 'Thought for the Day', BBC Radio, 2007.
10 December is International Human Rights Day: anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In 1966, the concepts of the UDHR were expanded and made binding by the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The 365 symbol says that every day is a human rights day.
May the Lord, when he comes, find us watching and waiting. Amen.