The Feat of the Epiphany is a puzzling time, My Beloved Sinners, even for One as Learned and Righteous as Myself. Nor all does this terrible cold weather help things: chilblains serve little benefit when it comes to addressing the great mysteries of Biblical Theology, and whilst there is no denying a good snow blower will always be an integral part of any exegetically-sound sermon preparation kit, sometimes one can’t help noticing that those churches with the most altar-bling are concentrated near the equator. Where the only salt you’ll ever find spread on the road got there as result of someone’s hands getting shaky while making one too many margaritas.
Still, a Clergyman has got to serve where he’s been called irrespective of the weather (at least until he gets lucky in his search for somewhere better), and helping you all understand what was going on when Jesus’ parents permitted foreigners with a penchant for astrology to offer their child such a mixed array of gifts isn’t going to be made any easier by My complaining about the cold. So without further ado I’ve instructed My Ministry Team to venture outside and fetch more wood for the fireplace while I address the Greatest Problem affecting Contemporary Christianity today: what was going when Melchior, Balthazar, and Caspar came to pay their respects?
The first thing we need to ask is “What’s with their choice of presents?” Gold is obvious: even if the price has recently weakened a little, at $1,238.40 an ounce we can all understand why that particular star-gazing sand-pilgrim wasn’t immediately thrown out on his ear. But frankincense? Myrrh? Who gives new-born babies that kind of gloop? If they’d been serious about wanting Our Lord to smell better while simultaneously casting a nice oily sheen upon all those around Him the least they could have given is Old Spice and a jar of tanning butter. But myrrh doesn’t even have a vowel in its name – what possible good would that have been to poor Mary? And have you ever tried taking frankincense back to Walmart without a receipt? I have, and let Me tell you it wasn’t a “save money, live better” experience. Although being a Christian company they do sell firearms, so in the end we were able to negotiate an exchange instead of a refund, and at least I was as a sportsman able to go home with something capable of killing people for purely recreational purposes.
The key to understanding what happened here in Bethlehem lays in the fact that the Bible specifically doesn’t tell us what Joseph was up to at the time. Which forces us to ask what kind of man would be out of the house/manger while three foreign men (who almost certainly all had beards) traipsed around over the avocado & harvest gold shag-pile, sycophantically paying their obeisances to his teenage bride and her infant? That’s right – one who knows he’s not the father! What the Bible is really telling us here is that Joseph was wise to the fact that the "Y" portion of Baby Jesus' incarnate chromosomes came from God!
As everyone knows caring for someone else’s children is a wonderful thing on account of all the child support payments you can spend. But when that child’s father is God – owner of the cattle on a thousand hills etc. – Joseph was in line for a serious check heading his way each month. He wasn’t just looking at the usual windfall guys in his position can score, like enough to pick up some sweet wheels on eBay for the ’74 Mustang II that’s been sitting on blocks in the yard for the past three years while he gets around to restoring it. No sir, Joseph knew he was looking at the real thing – say a ’68 Dodge Charger just like the one Bo and Luke drove in The Dukes of Hazard. Except with the 8-track upgraded into something that allows you to play music illegally downloaded from the internet.
Once you understand who Jesus’ real father was the whole event we celebrate today as the Epiphany makes perfect sense. Joseph, like any man in his position, was out celebrating his good fortune with his buddies, and freelance religious fringe-dwellers were doing what they’ve always done: offering inappropriate gifts in the course of their search for God. Jesus and His Mother’s next visitor may just have been trying to sell discount aluminum cladding (“Ever thought of giving this manger a real face-lift you can be proud of?”) but you’d better believe the one after that was someone wanting to complain about how the weird foreign guys were lowering the tone of the whole neighborhood (“And another thing: those camels they tied up outside have kicked down my letterbox, not to mention how bad all that yellow snow is going to smell when things start warming up again!”). But what could anyone expect? Pretty much the next thing we hear of the Holy Family is that they’ve become refugees, which possibly means the three wise men’s presents weren’t that impractical after all. Because carrying something more age-appropriate and essential like a Hoppy-Days Baby Bouncer is kind of hard when you’re fleeing for your life.
I’m Father Christian and I teach the Bible.