Epiphany 2021: bringing our gifts to the Christ child


For Epiphany this year, I suggest a simple exercise in the manner of an Ignatian contemplation, in which we imagine ourselves present in a Scriptural scene and pray using the imagination. Imagine yourself as one of the wise people bringing gifts to Jesus. Take a little time to set the scene, and then imagine its details. Maybe the scene will go in a completely different direction, in which God leads you forth, or maybe one of the following elements is resonant:

What did it take for you to get here? What led you to the Christ child? Maybe it was a star—or perhaps it was a person or a series of events that led you to Christ?

What gifts do you decide to bring to the child Jesus? The Biblical wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but each of these were symbols of something else: Christ’s kingship or his eventual sacrificial death. So we can also imagine bringing Christ gifts that symbolize what we wish to give the child in this new (calendar) year. Maybe I want to bring him a more open heart, and make room for greater attentiveness to God or prayer in my life, or greater openness of heart in my relationships. Maybe I am bringing him gold, and offer it to those who are hungry or who are refugees. Maybe it is a gift or talent of mine that I offer to use in service of God and God’s people. What gifts do I bring?

How is Jesus himself a gift to me, not only as a baby who awakens tenderness in my heart, as all babies do, but also as an adult, who models for me what it means to live a good, human life?

How does Jesus there with Joseph and Mary remind me the value of family, both biological family (as Mary was his mother) and the wider human family (as Joseph fathered him without such a connection, but no less lovingly)?

How might the presence of others who visited him remind me of their connection to Christ, too, and the ways that those who are poor materially or poor in spirit (as the shepherds were) reveal God’s presence to us?

How can simply resting in silence, in the presence of God , renew my spirit for the days ahead, and for the journey home again?

3 thoughts on “Epiphany 2021: bringing our gifts to the Christ child

  1. I read your article about Bill Barry and resume and eulogy virtues. I was disappointed that you did not credit David Brooks for first using this distinction in his book Road to Character and in his article in the NYT. It appeared as if this was your original designation. Disappointed that a professor at BC would do this. I think Bill would be too.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know. I did not know of the book or that David Brooks used it first —as I was just quoting the homily as I hope my article made clear. I’ve not read the book or article by Brooks.

      I’ll write to my editor at Loyola Press and see if I can get the reference to Brooks added immediately.

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    2. I’ve written to the editor and asked them to add in the reference to Brooks. Thanks for bringing the source to my attention.

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