ON THE PERIPHERY OF JOY
Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.” Is. 60:5
By the time the Christmas season draws to a close, the only things I have in excess are holiday weight and Amazon boxes. I’m otherwise feeling the emptiness of crashing sugar highs, stretched bank accounts, and drained energy. I want to save my best for Epiphany. But the reality is that I’m regifting Jesus some frankincense that’s been hiding in the back of a closet and stuffing leftover myrrh into a recycled gift bag. And I’m pretty much tapped out of all my gold right now.
When the magi set out on their long journey, their carefully selected gifts affirmed his royalty, dignity, and humanity. Although they had never met Jesus, they already knew him. These were not gifts given out of obligation, routine, or custom: a bottle of wine for a polite hostess gift; a gift set from Bath and Body Works for your workplace Secret Santa and an iTunes gift card for all the teenage cousins. In these situations, we often have never truly connected with the real person behind the gift. Like being a “plus one” at a wedding where we don’t know either the bride or groom, we are merely a bystander on the periphery of someone else’s joy.
The magi were more than superfluous extras to fill out the manger scene. They participated in proclaiming Jesus as the newborn king by acting on what they knew to be truth without demanding understanding or proof. I envy their conviction and I want God to give me faith like that. But God’s response is so clear. Only in being willing to risk everything for the truth, will my heart “throb and overflow” with the “riches of the sea.” And perhaps I’ve been content to simply be a bystander.
Christmas has come. The Christ child lies before me. So why am I still clutching a bag of leftovers?
God, what truth are you asking me to proclaim today?