Sunday, January 07, 2024

The Significance of Sorting Shapes

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Readings: Isaiah 60: 1-6; Psalm 71 (72): 1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Ephesians 3: 2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2: 1-12

Picture: cc Ella's Dad on Flickr

My dear friends, have you ever watched a child playing with a shape sorter? You know, those toys that require us to place blocks of different shapes into their corresponding holes? It seems that by the age of about two years, kids already begin to acquire the ability to do this. To recognise, to sort, and to fit various shapes into the right spaces. We find something similar in our scriptures today.

In each reading, a significant event is described in a different way. The first speaks of the coming of a glorious light. The second, the revealing of a profound mystery. And the gospel, the birth of an infant king. But whether it’s light, mystery or king, one thing is made clear. A single consoling message rings out: This event is meant for all… The light attracts everyone. Kings and commoners, sons and daughters, nearby residents and faraway exiles, locals and foreigners alike… The mystery does not discriminate. It gives both Jews and gentiles a share in the same inheritance, a place in the same body, a claim to the same promise… And even if the baby is called king of the Jews, gentiles travel a great distance to do him homage. It’s as though, despite the many differences that often divide us–including age and gender, colour and creed–we all have in each of our hearts the same Christ-shaped hole, which the Lord comes to fill completely.

This consoling message of radical inclusion presents us with a challenging task. Much like the one presented by a child’s shape sorter. Requiring the ability to recognise, to sort, and to fit the right shape into its proper hole. Isn’t this what the wise men do so well? Among the countless stars in the night sky, they somehow recognise the one that points them to Christ. Courageously, they follow it to faraway Jerusalem. Humbly, they consult strangers. Shrewdly, they sort out useful information from dangerous deception. Before piously falling to their knees in worship. Expressing with their bodies, what they long for in their hearts. To commit their lives to the Lord. Allowing him to fit them to his plans and purposes.

In contrast, the political and religious leaders in the gospel fail the challenge. They have the needed information, but not the wisdom to perform the task. Instead of receiving Christ as a blessing, they see him as a threat. Why? Isn’t it because they have foolishly forced onto their own hearts shapes that do not fit? Wealth and popularity, success and comfort, power and control… As a result, not only do they reject Christ, they also do violence to themselves, and to others as well.

A consoling message of radical inclusion, together with the challenging task of sorting shapes. Isn’t this the two-fold gift of the Lord’s Epiphany? A gift that we still need so urgently today. Living as we do amid an increasingly confusing array of seductive shapes, around which we are often driven to order our lives, without considering how well they truly fit.

Sisters and brothers, from a tender age, we acquire the ability to sort different physical shapes. How is the Lord helping us to learn to do the same with spiritual ones this Christmas?

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