A few weeks ago, a question came up at the dinner table about what people of different religious backgrounds believe. Mentally giving thanks for those two “Introduction to the History of Religions” courses I TAed at UCLA, I embarked upon a discussion of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and so on, significantly simplified for the kindergarten set. Finally, it was time to restate what we believed as Christians, lest I leave the 5-year-old completely confused and invite all sorts of awkward conversations during Godly Play.
We are Christians, I explained, so we believe that God sent Jesus to Earth to fill in the gap between humans and God.
“Oh!” she said, with pride of understanding. “Just like a new tooth!”
And there you have it. Systematic theology, kindergarten style.
During this season of Epiphany, we remember the story of three kings searching for the One who would fill the gap between God and man. Along the way they managed to serve as gift-givers and gap-fillers themselves, bringing their treasure to Jesus and preventing Herod from finding the fragile young child who would become our salvation.
Each of us has gaps in our lives. We, too, are searching. At the same time, we have gifts to contribute. The example of the three kings provides both consolation and challenge.
First, we have the assurance that we can find what we are looking for—after all, the kings found it about two thousand years ago, and their Savior is our Savior, too. Acceptance of this gift fills in the gap for us, just as it did for them.
Second, we, too, can—and should—be contributing our unique gifts. We may not have frankincense on hand, but we have time and we have talents. We aren’t terribly likely to become caught up in international intrigue, but we can speak and act with integrity and purpose.
We cannot earn salvation. The gold, frankincense and myrrh the kings offered didn’t purchase eternal forgiveness, nor did their refusal to inform on Jesus constitute a cosmic quid pro quo. Their example reminds us, though, that faith drives action. If we believe in the God who sets us free, shouldn’t our spirit of thanksgiving compel us to offer our own gifts?
God became human. Jesus filled in the gap. How can we fill in the gaps in our congregation? In our community? In our world?