3 kings and boy
Photo taken by me at this year’s Día de Los Reyes celebration at San Lucas United Church of Christ, where community children received gifts. Look at that smile!

It is hard to fathom Jesus as a grown man when just this past Sunday he was a baby being visited by Los Tres Reyes Magos.

The Christian Church spends four weeks preparing for the birth of Jesus but he only gets to be an infant for two Sundays.

Okay, I confess that maybe the fact that I miss my grand-kids has me stuck on this baby obsession.

Anyhoo…it might be time to take down the tree and put away the decorations but our text this Sunday (found here) reminds us that the beloved gift found in Mary’s baby boy is ever-present in the One that comes to John asking to be baptized.

John called the Baptist—the one who had shown nothing but boldness and courage just verses before Jesus appeared—was suddenly overcome by his feelings of unworthiness.

He was quickly willing to relinquish his role. Whaaat? Me? Baptize the Messiah? “I need to be baptized by you” (verse 14).

Now I doubt it would be hard for folx to empathize with John.  We get feeling insecure, less than and unworthy. Even self-proclaimed believers and followers of Jesus struggle with “impostor syndrome.”

It might be worth taking a moment to explore what Jesus meant with his response to John’s hesitation. What was the real lesson Jesus was making for those listening and watching? What is the lesson for our listener’s today? What needed to be revealed? What still needs to be unwrapped?

American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist—Langston Hughes, wrote

“Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes,
and the heart consumes itself, if it would live,
Where little children age before their time,
And life wears down the edges of the mind,
Where the old man sits with mind grown cold,
While bones and sinew, blood and cell, go slowly down to death,
Where fear companions each day’s life,
And Perfect Love seems long delayed.
In you, in me, in all mankind.”

Although the Christmas season has passed—Epiphany is the perfect time to shine a light on those places around us and within us where the Christmas message wasn’t unwrapped. The gift of hope wasn’t shared. Peace hasn’t been made known. Joy isn’t felt. The love hasn’t been born.

Like John, perhaps we are being called to slow down and see that we still have a role to play. Our work is not yet complete. The story is not over. There is yet grace and possibility to be unwrapped and shared. Even and especially in times where true repentance is required. The world is in need of our light—God’s light.

The baby is all grown up—but the gift celebrated by many on Christmas morning is still available and waiting to be received by all.

How do you see yourself unwrapping this message on Sunday? Please share in the comments below.


Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/hers/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter, minister, spiritual entrepreneur, teacher, and life-long learner committed to the liberation of colonized peoples, centering the marginalized, building power and creating community. She lives in Chicago with her spouse and their teenage son (pray for us) and has two adult daughters and eight grandchildren (!—please keep praying ;)) Dr. Pagán-Banks currently serves as executive director of A Just Harvest, pastor at San Lucas UCC and Namasté UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.


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One thought on “Narrative Lectionary: Unwrapped Gifts (Matthew 3:1-17)

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