feasting in gratitude and light on Epiphany...
But they headed home by a route. That is significant, too - not an original observation - but it suggests that their hearts and minds have been touched both by the journey to the stable and their encounter with the Christ-child. As some have written, they were humbled and awed by the vulnerability of the babe in Bethlehem. It may have been Barbara Brown Taylor (but it could have been Diana Butler Bass) who wrote that holding a small baby is the best way to learn theology and social ethics. The urge to protect and revel in joy is truly transformative and absolutely necessary for God's words to become flesh.
And that humility - and tenderness - is speaking to me at this moment in my life. I am increasingly aware that as much as I have wanted to be a part of BIG changes in the world - the anti-war efforts during Vietnam, the womens/mens movements, eco-justice, anti-nukes in the 80s, an ally for the LGBTQ community and hope/justice for Palestine and Israel - MOSTLY what I have done with my life is very small. I have listened - a lot - to lonely and confused people. I have wept with those who are grieving. And baptized babies, counseled young families, gone to court with those who have been abandoned or forgotten, baked bread for the hungry, feasted in homes and made prayer beads for those in anguish. Mostly what I have done is share very, very small acts of compassion. My heart and mind may have been caught up in the major events of my generation, but my heart and my actions have mostly been local, one-to-one and private. They have been matters of the home rather than the public square.
Oddly, for most of my ministry I have thought that the BIG issues were the most important, too. It has only been in the past five years or so that I have owned and realized how much time I have given to these little acts of mercy. But now I see how these small gifts have cumulatively taken me home by another way - "by another road" - and all the more so in these days after sabbatical. I am a very slow learner, but as I gaze backwards it is clear that no matter what I thought, the sacred calling of my ministry was been about presence and quiet acts of tenderness. In so many ways, I am with the Magi as they head home by another road - and today I give thanks to God for this, too.