“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they [the Magi] left for their own country by another road.” Matthew 2:12
The Magi – three scholars and often called “The Wise Men” – were Gentiles from a foreign land. Yet they were intrigued by an unusual star in the sky and felt prompted to follow the star. In some ways, we do the same thing when we look into the sky to see if we can find constellations or an unusual sighting of one of the planets that has somehow moved close enough for us to see it in a brighter light.
Since the Magi were Gentiles, though, one would think that Mary and Joseph would have been a bit anxious about having these three apparently wealthy and wise people show up at their doorstep. Yet, we don’t hear that in the story. Nor do we hear anything about the odd assortment of gifts they present to the Holy Family: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Of course, since the Holy Family ended up fleeing to Egypt, the sale of these items would have brought them enough money to live on while they were refugees.
But there is more to this story than what is on the surface. The symbolism is hard to miss if we really study it more closely. Gold is often associated with kings who were wealthy and had plenty of gold to spend. Frankincense would have a spiritual connotation, and myrrh was used on the body of a dead person before they were put into the grave. The idea of the Magi being Gentiles indicates that this Messiah – this King – was for ALL people, not just the Jewish nation.
Herod’s paranoia (something he apparently lived with all his life and especially as “king”) reminds us that power and authority are not to be taken lightly or abused. Jesus was a king of love and compassion where Herod was one of destruction, fear, and anxiety. Jesus was a king of the people, and Herod was king by appointment from the occupying Roman government.
The journey for the Magi was one of hope and trust that they would find the star and the king who was reported to be born when it appeared. What is our journey like as we enter a new year? 2012 held some highs and lows. There was devastation, horrible loss, anxiety, worry, distrust, and a lot of negative energy going on in the United States as well as the world. None of that has changed – much like the environment into which Jesus was born.
So what is our journey to be like this year? During times like these, we often blame God when bad things happen, after all, we seem to have to blame SOMEONE! But when we do that, we also turn the blame on ourselves. Yes, us. We are responsible for sharing the love of God in the world. God did not choose to go to an elementary school and shoot people, including children to death. A human being made that choice. God did not send a hurricane to destroy property and lives or to punish part of our nation for some reason or another.
What God did was to work through those who responded, to provide support and love, caring and blessing to the ones who suffer. When we look at the outpouring of love to the Newtown, CT people, it’s almost overwhelming, and it came from all over the world. Everyone wanted to do something to help, and they responded in the best way they could. We see a similar response to Hurricane Sandy victims and the help they received. These are only two examples.
We are part of the solution. We make choices every day about what to say to others, including our children. We make choices every day about how to act toward someone else. Jesus came into the world to share God’s love and to make the world a better place – and as his followers, that is also our calling.
May our journey through 2013 be one of following the teachings of Jesus and working to make the world a better place for because we have shared Christ. Happy New Year!