The quietest line in Matthew’s nativity claims the Magi went home ‘by another route.’
They had been warned in a dream that Herod was going to kill them. They had already seen the Christ. They needed to return to their own people, their own customs, their own homes.
But they would do so by another route.
Nobody who meets Christ goes home by the same route. We are all changed by the visitation of God. We are all transformed when we leave our old lives and come to worship the God who gave up his power in solidarity with our suffering.
I think this should be the litmus test for a good Christmas: did you meet Christ? were you changed?
Think about it. We all come to Christmas by the same route: stress, business, frantic gift-getting, over-spending, and a faint commitment that ‘this year will be different.’ But how many of us actually find ways to re-enter the manger? to re-encounter Christ? We know we’re supposed to remember that Jesus is ‘the reason for the season’ and all that other tripe, but we rarely make it our personal responsibility to encounter him.
And that’s one thing no one else can do for you. You have to accept the responsibility yourself. You know all the stories, you’re tired of all the songs, you’ve been to all the events. So. The only thing that can truly be given to Christ at Christmas is your attention.
We all have to make a conscious choice to make Christmas about something other than greed, or panic, or gluttony. And it won’t do to make Christmas “special” or “non-commercial.” We have to carve time out of our fragmented schedules, and focus our scattered thoughts, on the one who entered our world without privilege, without power, and without strength to show us that our true worth as human beings wasn’t found in anything other than our identity as children of God.
When we find that moment of clarity, we too will return from our Christophany by another route.