Today we come before you ready to follow your light as the Magi did so many years ago. Guide us on our journey.
Prayer of Approach, Confession, Pardon, and Assurance
Lord we come into your presence knowing that you meet us where we are on our journey. We ask you to forgive those times when we have wondered away from the path you would have us take. For the times when we followed our own will and our own way, taking us off course and wasting precious time. We ask you to guide us back to your leading and teaching. We ask this knowing that after having asked, it is so.
We now come before you asking you to bless those who often go unnoticed in our daily lives. Those who keep our communities healthy, those who care for our animals, those whose presence and contribution is known fully to only you. We thank you for those who generously share of their time and talents. We acknowledge those whose lives are riddled with disappointment, discouragement, and isolation. We know that you hear their cries. We ask you to bring them comfort as only you can. For those whose grief experiences are prolonged due to COVID. For those whose employment hopes are in limbo. For those whose health remains precarious. For those who seek food, shelter, and safety. We lift them up to you, father to your care and compassion. Help us to see the practical and pragmatic ways we can be your hands and feet; bringing relief where pain is acute. Equip us to bring gifts, as the Magi did, to those in need, to share what we have and to bless others. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The Magi Visit the Messiah
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
It feels a little strange to be telling this story so many weeks out from Christmas, but it is probably a more accurate timeline for the since Matthew records the visit to a house and not the stableand it technically it should have been shared on Wednesday, January 6, but here we are.
The story in Matthew can be divided into five scenes: the arrival of the magi (2:1-2); Herod’s alarm and consultation of the priests and scribes (2:3-6); Herod’s request of the magi (2:7-8); the magi’s visit and adoration of the Christ child (2:9-11); and the departure of the magi (2:12) when they “returned to their own country by another route…” (Matt 2:12).
As a story, it contains all the elements of a powerful narrative: exotic strangers, lives in danger, tyrannical antagonist, wealth, power, greed, conflict, a transformation, resolution, and conclusion. And it is a rich example of literary devices. Of course we have the star, the light in the darkness, that leads the Magi, but is also symbolic of Jesus’ presence. He is the light, the beacon that gives direction and focus for our lives in a similar way that the light lead the Magi to Jesus. This Christmas some of us, not me unfortunately, but many saw a powerful light in the sky. Again, a bright light during a time of great human darkness. A beacon toward a better future.
Later in Matthew we read his references to Jesus and his family’s flight to and departure from Egypt; not unlike the Israelite’s of history when they flee to Egypt during the famine and leave with Moses years later. Jesus then can be seen here as a new Moses, coming out of Egypt to free his people. And we his new people, being lead out of whatever binds us to a place or action that does not serve us. I know that I have often felt like the people of Israel wandering around in the dessert not asking for directions but wanting my needs to be met.
And of course the overarching theme of journey. The Magis’ journey to Bethlehem and their escape back to their homes.
It was a journey of transformation for the three stargazers and for us. Like the Magi, we, too, are led to Jesus. But we are not left there.
Matthew’s reflection on the visit of the Magi invites us to travel “by another route” (2:12) and God’s invitation is the same to us today. He wants us to take another route on the rest of our way home. When we are changed by God’s grace there is no way to travel the same path, behave the same way, tolerate the same injustices. The Magi went home a different way and denied Herod the location of Jesus. They listened to the warning they received and departed taking another route. We, too, are warned and told to take another route. The path that we were on may not have been the best path for us. It may have been a path of bad behaviour, foolish choices, or prideful attitudes. It’s time to take another route, be transformed by the message.