Matthew is not the first one to imagine three rich wise guys from the East coming to Jerusalem. His story line and plot come from Isaiah 60, a poem recited to Jews in Jerusalem about 580 b.c.e. These Jews had been in exile in Iraq for a couple of generations and had come back to the bombed-out city of Jerusalem. They were in despair.
While vacationing in Orlando, Florida, my wife and I visited the “Terminator 2 Show” at Universal Studios. We entered the studio and received special 3-D glasses. When we peered through the glasses, the length and width of the images on the movie screen were deepened and our experience enhanced.
When I think of the Christmas story, I see the crèche that was displayed each year in the front hall of my family home. The manger scene began to take shape during the last week of Advent, when we cut fragrant pine branches and spread them on the hall table, then placed figurines of oxen and cows in the center. Mary and Joseph took their places amid the creatures.
John the Baptist’s fiery call to repentance sounds harsh when we’re in the midst of preparations for the baby Jesus. The birth of a child is usually preceded by joyful expectation. But the child envisioned by John will come with an axe, with a winnowing fork and with purging flame.
Since I live near Lake Michigan, I take frequent walks along the lake and gaze out at the water, which stretches to the distant horizon. Sometimes it’s still, sparkling in the sunlight, an oasis of calm soothing me on a hectic day. On other days, gray clouds gather overhead, waves crash against the breakers below my path, and water sprays high into the air.