Latinos may know a Santa Claus, but the big deal at Christmas is really the Tres Reyes (Three Kings). We eat the Rosca de Reyes (King’s Wreath) complete with baby Jesus hidden so that the one who finds Jesus in their piece becomes king for the day. We leave straw for their camels (instead of milk and cookies) and they bring us presents! Others of us call that celebration (minus the straw) “Epiphany”. Like any holiday tradition, we can romanticize the image and ironically miss the actual meaning of Epiphany: waking up to reality.
The star-gazing and worship of the magi ended up in a wakeup call. They found the “king” they’d been searching for in a vulnerable context with injustice around the corner. King Herod and the religious establishment were troubled and afraid of this birth that had been prophesied. The Magi did not know the political situation and due to their asking questions, they unknowingly set into motion a sinister plan by Herod which would end in genocide and the Holy family in exile.
The irony is that the “wise” men appear to be oblivious to what is happening around them. In their pursuit to worship King Jesus they miss the actual social context of their worship. If they had more socio-political interest or humility they could have found Jesus and returned to their land without the carnage. They were as complicit in the injustice, in their attempt to worship, as the Jewish religious leaders. In fact, they continued to be oblivious and had to be warned in a dream not to run into Herod. This year more than ever before we see how religious leaders who ought to lead us to worship are the very ones participating in the injustices of our world.
Sometimes we too can be oblivious in our worship. We make worship about us and miss the social reality around us. In the Dangerous Act of Worship, Mark Labberton says, “Worship is the dangerous act of waking up to God and God’s purposes in the world.” Wise worship awakens and liberates us. And liberated worship acknowledges that the context and place of our faith matters.
This year many have been awakened to how bad injustice has impacted every inch of our society. While some were surprised, others were not. While some moved to getting informed, others moved to action. Whatever our initial reactions, it left us hungering for a form of faith that could sustain the lament and anger. We have been liberated from expressions of worship that seek to drown out the pain of the world and center the individual. We have been in the process of being liberated from narcissistic forms of faith. In an attempt not to just deconstruct our faith, we have been searching for communities that will guide us to reconstruction.
Read: Matthew 2:1-23
Name: How can our worship be mindful of the pain and marginalization of others? How can we practice worship that centers the most vulnerable? Who are the actual “wise” people with whom you are on this journey of liberation? What is a step you can tangibly take as you think about your time, energy, and resources?
Listen: We Three Kings, The Gift, Kimberly WIlliams https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfVGbTPR_NU