Epiphany – Wise Men and a Dancer from the East

Epiphany. January 6. Today marks the end of Christmastide – the “twelve days of Christmas” when we remember the wise men who came from the east seeking the light. Which reminds me of one of the most engaging movies I saw last year.

Mao’s Last Dancer is the story of Li, a peasant boy from a remote Chinese village, who is spotted and recruited by talent scouts for China’s national ballet company.

Li is so immensely gifted that when Ben, director of the Houston ballet, leads a workshop in Beijing and sees Li’s talent he offers the young man a summer internship in Houston. Ben keeps Li as his house guest, and also teaches him English.

One evening at supper Li tells Ben that someone on the street addressed him with an unusual term that afternoon. He had not been able to find it in his English-Chinese dictionary.

“What was the word?” asks Ben.
“Chink,” says Li.

Ben’s expression doesn’t give away his shock. He pauses. You can see his brain turning over and over. How will he explain this racial slur?

“Li,” Ben says at last. “Imagine you are in a theater. It’s dark. The house lights are down. The performance has not started. But there is a slit in the curtain that lets the light through.

“That’s what we call a ‘chink’ Li. An opening that lets light through. And that’s what you are. A chink. When you dance, we see the light coming through!”

And Li’s face lights with joy.

At Epiphany the Scripture selections for Epiphany overflow with the promise of light –

Arise, shine; for your light has come … nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn (Isaiah 60:1,3)

The dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness (Luke 1:78-79)

God also chose a peasant boy from a tiny village to be his “chink” He pulled the curtains aside to show us the light of his glory in the face of his Son Jesus Christ the Lord. And so Epiphany celebrates the mission of the church to bring Christ’s light in dark places.

I can think now of many who have been “chinks” to me, letting the light of Christ shine through their own talents and gifts.

This Epiphany – l would like to bow again as the magi did, offer to the Lord Jesus whatever gifts I have, and be just a small “chink” through which Christ shines.

Leighton Ford

January 2011

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