There is a huge risk that God takes, to be born, made incarnate, made flesh, not only in secret, the flesh and blood of an insignificant country couple who barely know where he came from. It is a huge risk, too, that God took to reveal this child’s destiny, his DNA, his heritage as the descendant not only of David, but of God’s own self.
Shepherds were a safe bet for revelation; everyone assumed that they are drunk on sheep dip. But the wise men, the magi; accustomed to authority and access, they went straight to the king, and Herod was made furious by their fine procession of gifts, and none of them for him, but for a child born King of the Jews.
It is the revelation of the Messiah to the Gentiles of the East, the Epiphany, that brings these men from east of Eden, far from God, into the heart and hearth of God’s bosom, the child and his nursing mother. But it is a revelation, too, to the nations of Egypt, and of all that meet in that delta of trade: Greeks and Ethiopians and all manner of people are blessed by the epiphany of this odd little family of refugees, followed wherever they go by rumours of angels, and hidden gold, and of danger; rumours of God.
It is not only in the worship of the wise men that God is revealed in the little body of Jesus. It is in his flight, in his plight. It is in his fear, and in the courage and love of those devoted to his welfare. It is in the welcome they receive in the city of the Pharaohs, home from home for a season, until it is safe to return.
God speaks to each of them in dreams; guiding, warning, encouraging, calling. But what are the dreams of the people of the sanctuary city? How did they recognize this fragile family as the answer to them all?
In the holy mystery that is the Epiphany, we come before the Christ child as foreigners, as strangers; and yet he recognizes and receives us, generously accepts our gifts.
Jesus comes to us as a stranger, foreign, and yet utterly familiar, that frail frame of flesh and blood.
Will we recognize him, accept the gift of his blessed incarnation; his phenomenal humanity?
It seems to me, learning the lessons of Herod, of the Magi, of the dreams cast by God over the waters, that we dare not do less than worship him, follow his light, adore him.