There is a haunting line from W.H. Auden (sometimes attributed to Abner Dean) that reads, “Remember the gift, the one from the manger, it means only this, you can dance with a stranger.” We can all be slow learners when it comes to matters of ultimate importance, and, even though I have pondered these words off and on for years, a clear meaning eluded me until this Christmas. It happened when I was writing the sermon for last Sunday and re-thinking the story of the wise men’s visit to the infant king. Matthew says that they “knelt down and paid him homage.” He clearly did not meet up to their expectations–he and they were unimaginably different from each other, from different worlds. The rich and powerful knelt down and worshiped the poor and helpless little son of refugees. They danced with a stranger. They came to bring him gifts, but they were the ones who received the gift. That gift can be ours as well if we are willing to receive it and be transformed by it.
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