“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’” Matthew 2:1-
By KATHLEEN DETTMANN
“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’” Matthew 2:1-2
Epiphany is becoming a forgotten holiday with the magi relegated to three characters in a Christmas program. We don’t think about the magi very much anymore, but in their day they were respected scholars; they studied the skies for signs and books for how to interpret them. What they found there led them on a difficult, expensive and dangerous journey to find the king of the Jews. Why would they do that – what was in it for them?
They were looking for a king who would do great things for his people, but they weren’t his people. In fact his own people didn’t seem to know much about him. The magi were led to a king who didn’t look or live like a king – yet the magi recognized the king when they saw Jesus. After honoring Jesus, they returned home under threat from Herod. They probably never heard about Jesus again.
The purity of the magi’s worship is a lesson to us. We search for signs of God’s activity when and where it affects us; the magi searched the heavens to see God’s work everywhere. We celebrate when God blesses those we care about; the magi celebrated when God blessed strangers in a faraway country. We offer our gifts to honor God and help others, but often we expect a blessing in return; the magi made tremendous sacrifices to honor Jesus without expecting any reward.
Does that mean they weren’t blessed by their journey? No, God always blesses us more than we can imagine and in ways we don’t expect – but God chooses how to bless us. God blessed the magi with signs in nature (and knowledge to interpret them) to reveal God’s presence in the world. God blessed them with open hearts to rejoice in the gift of a king to people of a different culture. More than that, God blessed the magi with faith to believe the sign and to follow it. They were blessed by God’s presence in their journey and in their lives – the only blessing they ever needed. The only one we need.