Today is the last day of this calendar. It’s Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. It’s the day we celebrate the three kings (aka the wise men) coming to see Baby Jesus. Who wasn’t really such a baby by then. The story is that these scholars saw a new star in the sky (the star that announced the birth of Jesus) and knew that it signaled the birth of the Messiah (because of ancient prophesies) so they followed the star and traveled to where Jesus was in order to pay homage to him. Allegedly the trip took them about two years.
What I find fascinating about this story is that whether you think they were royalty or academics, whether you think there were actually three of them or some unspecified number (the Bible mentions the three gifts they brought but not specifically how many people there were), and whether you subscribe to the tradition that they were named Melchior, Balthasar, and Gaspar or not, you probably have the idea that these were people who were used to Deciding Things and Assessing Things and Judging Things.
These men had power. They had knowledge and wealth, and those things equal power. So it makes sense that they’d be coming to assess the Messiah and pronounce him worthy or not. But there’s none of that in the Bible. Simply a journey (long and arduous, with dangerous encounters with Herod that always feel creepy) that ends with their showing up and giving Jesus’ parents a riddle that fulfills a prophecy in the form of gifts.
It has always felt to me like the wise men were telling Jesus and Mary and Joseph, “It is time for you to do your part. We are giving you these clues, and passing you the baton.” Like they were blessing Jesus (even as they knew he was pretty much screwed by earthly standards) instead of assessing him. The arrival of the kings is basically the plot of The Fifth Element.
This is why this is the end of the Christmas season. Christmas is about birth and joy. Epiphany says “Make it work.”
What does this have to do with you? I am guessing that you probably feel like you’re coming up short whenever you’re assessed. I know that I do. The last few days have been a quiet realization that I’ve been doing something in a massively misguided way for a few years. But that it isn’t my place to allow myself to feel inadequate, because I have work to do. So do you.
There’s something that is your task. Something that you’re good at, or that no one but you can do. Whether that’s your job, or some other vocation or activity. Whether it’s being your child’s parent or your parent’s child. Whether it’s caring for your dog or cat or lizard. You have a job to do. And you can do it, even if it sucks, and even if you get screwed sometimes.
You can do it.
(See you on November 29.)