One problem with a secularised view of Christmas is the potential for it to become the ‘Feast Of Me’ – we can become the focus, if the reason for the feast is detached from the celebration of it. Under this view, Christmas is about wanting – and the present commercialisation of Christmas adds to this dead-end perspective.
And so, in a sense, the feast of the Epiphany is something of a tonic to this attitude of ‘self’ which can descend upon us despite our best intentions. The scene we picture on this day is of the Wise Men bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, which they leave at the crib of the Baby Jesus – signs of adoration and of something to come later. The gifts – and the Wise Men themselves – stand in stark contrast to the poverty of the stable in which the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph have taken shelter so that the Child can be born. All the later indications in the Gospels are that this poverty never really left the Holy Family. And yet, this Family who had nothing, in fact had absolutely everything.
Contemplating the scene before us, we might wonder what we can personally bring to the Christ Child – what gifts of ours can we bring Him and leave at His crib?
We already posess the first gift the Wise Men brought – our adoration. This sense of adoration opens our eyes to see the reality, the beauty and the sheer transcendency of the scene in front of us, of the Child in the manger, His Mother and Saint Joseph nearby. The little space is wrapped in silence, for this is what true adoration produces within us – whether in the stable of Bethlehem or within our own hearts. Accompanying that silence is a sense of peace – that ‘peace which the world cannot give’, as we will hear much later in the Gospel. This peace is felt by all people of goodwill – from the youngest child to the oldest adult, there is something almost magical about the image of the Child in the manger, it creates something within us as nothing else can do.
Beyond our adoration, we each have very specific gifts to offer the Lord – and each one of them, He first gave to us. What talents, skills, abilities has He given to me? What have I done with them? How have I used them? Have I used these gifts to go in search of the Lord, like the Wise Men? Or have I used them for my own purposes?
Notice, too, that the Wise Men did not approach the Holy Family alone – they came together. What have I done to bring others to the Lord along with me? What example have I given so that others will want to come to the Lord with me? What lessons do my daily life teach those around me?
Arriving at Bethlehem, the Wise Men each offered a different gift, witho0ut rancour or jealousy. Have I been similarly inclined? Have I been glad that others have theor own gifts to offer the Lord? Or have I wished I had their gifts? Have I made comparisons between myself and others, their gifts and mine, such that I become paralysed and fail to give what I have brought to the Lord?
Perhaps the most striking gift of all is that of the Mother of Jesus; from this moment on, She will always remain so close to Him. She will be in His presence always. She will hold Him so close to Her own Immaculate Heart that it will beat in perfect rhythm with His Sacred Heart. Can I seek such intimacy, such proximity with Him, as She? Perhaps by remaining ever close to Her, so I will remain ever close to Her Son – for none is as close to Him as She is.