“On entering the house, [The Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and pain him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, an myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” Matthew 2:11-12 (NRSV)
The Magi were scholars from a foreign country, apparently from some place far away. In the scripture, we read that they came from the East, so that could be any number of countries. Since they followed the star of Bethlehem, they may have been astrologers who charted the heavens and could somehow forecast what was happening in the world, at least their world.
Their inclusion in the story of Jesus’ birth is interesting because they brought gifts that would help save Jesus’ life: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, all precious and expensive gifts normally given to a king. Of course, they treated their journey as a sort of pilgrimage to see the newborn king (even though he would have been a toddler by that time).
Another interesting reason the Magi may have been included in this story is because they were Gentiles. This is significant because in the story of Jesus’ birth, we have indicators of the inclusiveness of God. In Luke, the outcast sheep herders were the first to hear of the birth. They were not considered upstanding citizens and probably on the bottom or at least near the bottom of the social scale. In Matthew, we have quite the opposite as far as economic and social status when the Magi show up, but we also have non-Jewish people who recognize Jesus as a king.
God’s salvation was for everyone. Jesus’ ministry reflected his mission to care for the poor and outcasts of society, and in doing so, he set the example for the church. We are to care for the poor and outcasts, the sick and the lonely, the imprisoned, homeless, hungry, and needy. God’s grace extends to EVERYONE.
What struck me was the last verse of Matthew 2: “they left for their own country by another road.” Regardless of who we are or what our situations may be, when we encounter Jesus, our lives are changed. The shepherds may not have fully comprehended what they had witnessed, and the Magi may not have realized what they had done to help the holy family as they prepared to flee Herod’s horrific massacre of the children in Bethlehem. But they most certainly must have been changed.
Sometimes in the scriptures, as simple statement such as, “they returned home by a different road” indicates a life that has been changed. Our lives become complicated and sometimes very challenging. In the midst of that, we may find ourselves moving away from God, ignoring the signs that are calling us to turn to God for direction. Fortunately, every moment of every day, we can turn around and follow a different path – hopefully the one that leads us to God or back to God.
May your week be blessed as you seek God’s companionship and recognize the presence of Christ – Emmanuel – God-with-us.