This week, we celebrate the conclusion of the twelve days of Christmas and much of the Christian world celebrates revelation, light, seeing. The arrival of the Magi to the house where the young child was, a celestial marvel attracting foreign scholar-priests to the obscure village of Bethlehem. The homage of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, acknowledging this baby’s royal and divine lineage with an overtone of inevitable mortality. Camels, horses, foreigners, unsettling signs, wonders. The trigger which unleashes local paranoia, an attempted genocide, flight.
As it happens, my Old Testament reading today ends the book of Ruth, also largely set in Bethlehem. And coming on the heels of Urbana’s emphasis on multiculturalism, and on reading one of the speaker’s books (Disunity in Christ, by Christine Cleveland), I’m struck by the intentional orchestration of God to mix things up. Sending Naomi and family to Moab, drawing in Ruth, bringing her back to Bethlehem, and through the desperation and scheming and hope of two widows, a story of redemption where Ruth enters the family tree that produces King David, and then Jesus.
Fast forward a thousand years, and another very intentional stir in world events brings these mystical scholars to meet the infant Jesus and return to their diverse lands enlightened. The birth of God, to the Jews but also to the world. So the exotic caravan of foreign dignitaries enters the small village, and then the cosmic disturbance explodes in dreams of warning, angels, escape to Egypt. Another foreign connection.
Today then is a Christmas completion, good news for all peoples, which includes us in all our obscurity and injustice. God intentionally draws the world to Jesus and sends Jesus to the world.