In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ (Matthew 2:1-2)
One of the great themes of Epiphany personified by the Magi, is that God’s promised salvation was not just for the Jewish people, but for those who were afar off – people with different ethnicity, language and customs. For those participating in our Morning Prayer, will know that we are working through Ephesians, and these themes of inclusion of all is a constant theme.
It seems appropriate to apply this lens to recent events here and across the border. Today, the third Friday of January, is Martin Luther King (MLK) Day in the USA and comes in the shadow of the appalling events on Capitol Hill last week.
In the USA, we have seen so much simmering discontent being fermented and it then bubbling over. It is more than racism; it is a fusion of ideologies that can find common cause in being unhappy with America and it’s direction of travel. Even the name of Jesus has been appropriated for their purposes.
MLK understood that civil rights was so much more than racial justice. Addressing a mixed audience, he once said,
“[T]he revolution for human rights is opening up unhealthy areas in American life and permitting a new and wholesome healing to take place. Eventually the civil rights movement will have contributed infinitely more to the nation than the eradication of racial justice.”
2020 showed us all too clearly that the USA is not a just society, that people of colour still face discrimination in too many places, as the George Floyd video forcefully reminds us. However, we cannot be complacent here in Canada, far from it. In Vancouver, members of the Canadian Chinese communities were victimised when COVID-19 first broke and indigenous communities across the country have reported increased racist incidents directed at them recently.
As the Senior Medical Officer of the First Nation Health Authority, Dr. Nel Wieman said,
“This [Covid-19] is an example of a stressor that brings things into relief. Racism towards First Nations individuals from certain communities during the pandemic didn’t just arise because of the pandemic.”
There are unhealthy areas in our lives and in our nation that need to be opened up to permit ‘a new and wholesome healing’ to take place.
The magi (magoi in Greek) were astrologers and sages from Arabia and Persia. The Magi were wise in that they were authentic searchers for truth. They were not closed-in on themselves, but were open to fresh revelation. They understood that the bright Star in the sky was a sign of something great, a light for them to follow. When they encountered the Christ-child, their lives were forever changed and so they could not proceed on the same road by which they had come.
My prayer is that, as individuals and communities, we continually have a fresh revelation to shine a light on our ‘blind spots’ and challenge our practices and customs that close us down to the new or exclude others intentionally or unintentionally. Amen.
With love, Philip