Seeing Baby Jesus

We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat, among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers in doorways. –Archbishop Oscar Romero, December 24, 1979

Today Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord. Our Spanish-speaking friends call it “El Dia de Reyes” or “Three Kings Day.” Whatever you call it or however you celebrate it, the intent of the day is to celebrate the “manifestation” or appearance of Christ to all nations.

Many of you will be familiar with the Christmas carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” Perhaps this beloved song conjures up images of bathrobe clad children parading up church aisles during the traditional retelling of the birth narrative. A few of you may associate it more with Patti’s Smith’s haunting rendition (Thanks, David Lose, for the reminder!) of this mid-nineteenth century hymn by the Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr.

But the celebration of Epiphany is more than just three Kings, bathrobes, and a hymn. Think of the word itself–epiphany. In the Greek, ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, means a “manifestation or striking realization.” I’m wondering how many 21st century folks experience epiphanies of faith.

Is Jesus simply a little china figurine to be brought out at Christmas and packed securely away after the twelve days are over? Is this “sweet little baby child” much easier for us to palate and manage? After all, if we can put him in a box or on a shelf at will, we aren’t faced with uncomfortable truths and niggling nudges to move out of our comfort zones.

Or, do we even see him at all? The foreign wise folk  saw him, but the religious leaders did not. The shepherds saw him, but Herod could not. Can we see Jesus today? Do we look in the right places? Is he a picture we grew up seeing on the Sunday school wall, or can he be seen as Oscar Romero states “among the undernourished children who have gone to bed at night with nothing to eat”?

The Herods of our day–the powers and principalities, the culture and media–seem not to see him. I suspect they don’t want us to see him either, because seeing Jesus leads one to do strange things such as leave home and country bearing gifts or leaving the security of jobs and secure lives to follow him in the wilderness of our world. Seeing Jesus–experiencing an epiphany of faith–is a life-changing experience, one that is often unsettling and even fearful. Seeing Jesus leads to a changed world.

The good news is that Jesus is there whether we “see” him or acknowledge him or choose not to do so. The Creator of the cosmos is active and on the loose in the world, working on restoring, fixing and fitting together all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe and inviting us to join the party.

Look for the light. Open yourself to epiphanies of faith. Bring your gifts to serve and honor the One who conquers the dark. You are welcome with the wise, the marginalized, the foolish, and faithful; there’s room for everyone.

Blessings on the journey.

Here’s a lovely version of the hymn “Christ, Be Our Light” by Bernadette Farrell. It’s a wonderful hymn–not only for Epiphany but for every day.

Photo by FeedMyStarvingChildren. Thanks!

Every Life a Sermon

On March 24, 1980 (32 years ago) Bishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was gunned down while celebrating the Eucharist. His legacy lives on; the sermon of his life is as vivid today as it was during his lifetime.

If you are not familiar with Oscar Romero, he was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador who would later become the eighth bishop and fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He was an academic and a parish priest–not a politician. In fact, his appointment as archibishop, while greeted positively by the government, was a source of dismay to the radical priests who ascribed to liberation theology and a commitment to the poor and disenfranchised.

Less than one month after Romero’s appointment, a progressive Jesuit priest and personal friend, Rutilio Grande, was assassinated. The murder had a profound effect on the Archbishop, who began openly to campaign for justice and the rights of the people. Romero would later say of Grande’s assassination, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought ‘if they have killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path”. And indeed he did.

More than 250,000 mourners from all over the world gathered to pay their respects and attend his funeral mass. During the service, a bomb exploded on the cathedral square sending the crowd into a panic that resulted in between 30-50 casualties (depending on the source).

Óscar Romero’s life is a strong witness to the way of the cross and the life of the disciple of Christ. For more information about Romero, click here or here. Yes, every life is a sermon. This is a point I stress when it comes to funeral homilies; we all preach through our actions, words, and convictions. As St. Francis is attributed to saying, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

How is your life preaching?

PS: If you haven’t seen the movie Romero (1989), then by all means do so! It will be well worth your time.

Lent 40/40/40 Update

Honoring Relationships

All too often we live lives of compromise and fear. We are afraid to alienate people for the sake of our beliefs and passions. We stand by silently when we wish to speak out. I am thankful for the people in my life who have shown great courage to be who they are and to work for justice for all people. Thank you Aileen, Charlie, Victor, and Clay. You inspire me.

Giving Possessions

More books gone! Yeehaw!


I am thankful that I woke up to the sound of a gentle rain on the porch roof outside my window. I am grateful for a slow day of cooking, writing, devotions, and resting.

Image courtesy Thank you.