CHRISTMAS WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Shepherds And Magi

Shepherds And Magi Evelyn Underhill

From Light of Christ

The Christmas Mystery has two parts: the Nativity and the Epiphany.  A deep instinct made the church separate these two feasts.  In the first, we commemorate God’s humble entrance into human life, the emergence and birth of the Holy, and in the second its manifestation to the world, the revelation of the supernatural made in that life.  And the two phases concern our inner lives very closely, too.  The first only happens in order that the second may happen; and the second cannot happen without the first.  Christ is a light to lighten the Gentiles as well as the glory of his people, Israel.  Think of what the Gentile was when these words were written – an absolute outsider.  All cozy religious exclusiveness falls before that thought.  The Light of the world is not the sanctuary lamp in your favorite church.  It is easy for the devout to join up with the shepherds and fall into place at the crib and look out into the surrounding night and say, Look at those extraordinary intellectuals wandering about after a star, with no religious sense at all!  Look at that clumsy camel, what an unspiritual animal it is! We know the ox and the ass are the right animals to have!  Look what queer gifts and odd types of self-consecration they are bringing; not the sort of people who come to church!  But remember that the child who began by receiving these very unexpected pilgrims had a woman of the streets for his faithful friend and two thieves for his comrades at the end; and looking at these two extremes let us try to learn a little of the height and breadth and depth of his love – and then apply it to our own lives.

It was said of Father Wainwright that he cared above all for scamps and drunkards and unbelievers – least for those who came regularly to church – and no man of our time was fuller of the Spirit of Christ.  The first point about Epiphany is that all are called and welcomed and accepted.  Our own loving adoration and deep certitude, if God in his mercy gives us that, is never to break our brotherhood with those who come longer journeys by other paths, led by a different star.  The Magi took more trouble than the shepherds.  The intellectual virtues and intellectual longings of men are all blessed in Christ.

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