As we celebrate Epiphany Sunday, the Christ child will welcome quite a number of visitors to the humble stable. The Wise Men/Magi/Kings will finish their long journey and present their gifts, but there’s another group that has been keeping things together, and that would be our good friends the Shepherds. I’ve always thought that the Shepherds didn’t just pop in for a quick visit on Christmas Eve but would have extended true Middle Eastern hospitality to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. A couple of days ago I revisited a painting that is an absolutely wonderful example of “faithful imagination”: The Adoration of the Herdsmen, a 16th century painting by Jacobi Robusti, nicknamed “Tintoretto”. You’ll see it on the cover of the Sunday bulletin, but for now let scholar and author Garry Wills describe it: “The people who have heard the Good News rush aid to the newborn. What Tintoretto presents here as no other painter has, is the marvel that God made himself dependent on us. Mary and Joseph, poor themselves, need the support of the poor. With the generosity of shared goods, the neighbors bring sustenance: eggs, poultry, and bread.”
Women play a central role in providing hospitality, with one woman in particular providing a very special and necessary gift, eminently more practical than gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus, along with the Shepherd men and women as well as the Wise Men/Magi/Kings invite us to a simple table in a humble stable to break bread with them this Epiphany Sunday. We’ll gather in a circle of faith, fellowship and love as we receive communion.