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Fr Denis Brown

Did you know that you are in the crib?

There is a story about a priest visiting one of the Infant Classes in his local school. When he arrived the children were drawing pictures, so he decided to go around looking at the pictures. At one little girl's drawing he remarked “that is a lovely house you are drawing!” To which she replied, “that is not a house that is my daddy!”

Children’s Work books in school are often just plain pictures and they are asked to colour them in. And it is in colouring them in, that they start to learn about the story or lesson that the picture represents.

As adults we colour in stories as well.

Sometimes we add something that shouldn’t be added to a story. Especially if it is about some one we don’t like, and we add our own touch of gossip.

Over the centuries we have coloured in today’s story of the visit of the wise men.

1. Camels have been added.

2. Wise men became kings, hence crowns.

3. We have assumed that there were three of them because there were three gifts.

4. Given many names, most popular, Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar.

5. One was old another was young so that people of different ages could identify with them.

6. Two were white and one was black, to indicate that all races belong to God.

7. People loved the story so much that they made them travel a long way, and that their relics are supposed to be scattered all over different parts of the world – having passed by that way.

8. They are supposed to have died in Cologne in Germany having undergone many trials and labours for the sake of the Gospel.

9. They are supposed to have died in AD 45 after celebrating Mass aged, 109, 112, and 116.

Now how do we separate the truth from the myth and folklore?

Would St. Matthew, who gave us this story, be annoyed that we have coloured his story in such a way?

I don’t think so – for in giving the story our own colour we have made it our own.

The main reason he told the story was to help his non-Jewish readers to believe that you don’t have to be Jewish to be attracted to Jesus.

How right he was!

Today, there are more that 1 billion Christians across the world. There is hope for us all, because this is Our feast.

This story challenges us too; for Jesus has come to welcome everyone into his Father’s kingdom. This undercuts the sectarianism which afflicts us all and demands a change in attitude in us.

Of course God is for me, but God is also for everyone else – for other Christians, for people of other religions, and for those who profess no religion at all.

The wise men from afar represent the whole world. God enlightens everyone who comes into this world {John 1:9} and wants all people to come safely home to him.

We must welcome those Christ welcomes – no matter how difficult it is.

This story is also about Reverence.

If you remember back to the Gospels this Advent season we heard that the child Jesus was to be called “Emmanuel – a name which means God-is-with-us.”

So we are reminded today that God is present to you and me in our neighbours.

The wise men found a baby that looked like any other baby, but they interpreted that this child was divine.

Each of us has a divine quality: God became human so that humans might become part of God – that is the message of Christmas.

So we must reverence each other and never rubbish ourselves or anyone else.

Herod missed the point of today’s feast completely! Instead of reverencing the children of Bethlehem, he killed them. To us, everyone must be a holy mystery.

There is an old saying we unkindly say about someone who is very active in a community; “she or he is in everything but the crib!”

It is possibly jealously talking.

But the thing is when the wise man came to Christ in the first crib they represented us – so we are indeed all of us in the crib.


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