Have you ever played the car game, “Corn on my Side” ? It is one of the many games in my arsenal when going on a road with either my family or youth ministry. Basically if someone spots a cornfield on their side of the road they have to sing “Corn on My Side” to the tune of any song. The only rule being that you cannot repeat a song. Being that the majority of our travels are to the Southeast and Midwest, corn fields are plentiful. My husband and I after returning our daughter to college amped up the game to include other things. For example, if you see a dead animal on the road you have to play “Taps”. If you spot an orange construction sign you yell “BOO!”. If you pass a rest stop you have to sing a lullaby. If you happen to pass a truck loaded with hay, naturally you would yell, “HAY!”. For every cow that is passed you naturally would moo. If you pass a green sign that has your final destination on it you give a cheer! It is every player for themselves in vehicle. If you feel that the people in the front seat have an unfair advantage, then by all means, divide into teams.The first player that completes any of the noted actions is awarded a point. The team or player with the most points, wins. What do they win? That is up to the members of vehicle. Perhaps control of the radio, or to be the first in line at the rest stop. That is up to you but I should warn you, competition can get fierce!
That is not unlike driving itself. Sometimes traveling can seem like a competition! Who is going to get there first! We are all in our own little world with our minds set on our own destination. We are immediately incensed if someone appears to deliberately infringe on us by cutting us off or not signaling a turn. How could they be so selfish? Didn’t they see me here? How could they be so rude?
Speaking of rude, I recently read a story where a young businessman was in the airport. He was early for his flight so he decided to get a snack. There was a little donut kiosk so he decided to satisfy his sweet tooth. There was special on the sugar coated donuts. Buy four and get one free. So he did. The donuts were placed in a little white bag and off he went with his coffee and newspaper. Finding an empty table, he sat down and began to read his paper. In a few minutes he heard the rustling of paper. He looked over his paper to see a man reaching into a donut bag on the table. The elderly man was very shabbily dressed and unshaven. He did not even look like the type of person that could afford a donut yet alone a plane ticket and there he was eating the business man’s donuts! Startled by the audacity of the man, the business man reached in the bag and grabbed a donut never losing eye contact with the elderly man as he ate. Then he went back to reading the paper. In a few minutes, he heard the familiar rustling of paper. The disheveled man was again reaching into the bag for ANOTHER donut. The young businessman couldn’t believe it! Who did this old guy think he was eating all of someone else’s donuts? The businessman quickly reached in, grabbed a donut and purposefully took a huge bite right in the old man’s face. Then quickly went back to his reading his paper and drinking his coffee thinking, “The nerve of that guy!” The PA speaker announced that a flight was leaving for Sarasota. The elderly man got up from his seat. The businessman looked over his paper. His disheveled table mate pushed the donut bag toward him reached in and grabbed the last donut! Unbelievable!!! The LAST donut!!! He then broke the last donut in half and handed it over the newspaper to the businessman and headed toward his departing gate. The businessman was about ready to explode! This guy ate all of his donuts! Who does that? The businessman was now over the top. Who would do that? The rudeness! At that same moment he heard his flight being called. He gulped down that last half of donut with swallow of coffee. When he bent over to pick up his brief case, that is when he saw it, his bag of donuts. The entire time he had been eating the stranger’s donuts. Yet this shell of a man whom he had judged to be poor and fairly insignificant in what he had to offer society, had easily shared what he had to give with an uptight businessman who was in essence his polar opposite. He was not the selfish one, he was selfless one. The businessman, in a matter of 2.5 indignantly eaten donuts, was exposed and opened to his core. In that moment he had an epiphany and saw himself for who he truly was. He was not the rich one. He was the man who truly lacking in all that humanity required of him.
Today our gospel is from Matthew 2:1. It is a story that we all know well. The Magi (or kings) visit the infant Jesus. The Magi were wealthy and mysterious travelers. They navigated their way to Bethlehem to visit a relatively insignificant child in a manger who appeared to have nothing of value and nothing to offer the world into which he was born. Yet, in reality it was Jesus, who shared, and would share, rich-ness with the world. He would change forever the way humanity would move and live and love in this world. The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are prophetic of Jesus’ kingship, priesthood and death. But there is more to this gospel. The magi visiting the infant Jesus is the “AHA” or revelatory moment similar to the bag of donuts found by the briefcase. The kings brought gifts to Jesus, but really, he gave them the gift. He was salvation. He was God in human skin who came not just for Israel but for everyone. He himself, the receiver of gifts was the gift. That was the epiphany.
We each have our own road to navigate. Sometimes we share a part of the journey with others, sometimes not. Sharing the journey is not a competition. The journey is not about how many cows we can count or times we can sing “corn on my side”. It is not about racking up points so we can prove ourselves better than the person next to us. We may have fun singing but that is not the end game. We are taking different paths but what really matters is how well we travel together to reach our final destination.