One of the great joys of our lives are our grandchildren. We have four: David, Jackson, Grayson and Edison. I remember when our sons were younger and people would tell me to enjoy them because they grow up so fast…and they were right. And now, their sons are growing up just as fast. A friend told me recently about our twins, who are thirteen months old, “In the blink of an eye, they will be in school.”
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king, they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. -Matthew 2:1-12
Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany is a celebration of God manifesting as the baby Jesus and revealing Himself to the world. It also marks the day the Magi, or the three kings, visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. In a previous post, I talked about King Herod and his greed and need for absolute power. We see this played out as he orders the death of many of his own family, in early scripture, and in issuing the order to have the children of Israel slaughtered when the Magi failed to report the whereabouts of the “newborn king of the Jews.”
But what about the Magi? Who were they…why did they come…and what does it mean for us?
The word magi means “skilled magicians, astrologers, learned scholar,” from Latin magi, plural of magus “magician, learned magician,” from Greek magos, a word used for the Persian learned and priestly class as portrayed in the Bible. These “wise men” would have studied and been aware of the prophecy surrounding Jesus’ birth. Tradition holds that there were three men, based on the number of gifts presented and that their names were Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Tradition also says that these three men represent the continents of Africa, Europe, and Asia, because this was the “known” world at the time.
Along with the above reading from today from the gospel of Matthew, we read, from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the following:
Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation. It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
It is here where we can see the importance of the Magi’s visit was to us. In a word…they were not Jews. These men, who came seeking the king of the Jews, were Gentiles. The word gentile refers to anyone or any nation that is not Jewish.
And so, the Magi, in fact, are so important, because, unless you are Jewish, they signify all of us. The Magi are our representatives in celebrating and honoring the baby Jesus. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “the Gentiles are coheirs…”
As I thought about the Magi…the hours spent studying a sacred scripture that was not their own…and the journey they undertook to find Jesus, I stopped to contrast it to Herod’s response. In a brief moment in time, he missed it. The savior of the world was close at hand…and Herod blinked. He looked away. He let his pride…his greed…his hatred blur his vision. Instead of focusing on Jesus, he focused on his own needs and desires.
As we begin 2022, my prayer for you…my prayer for myself…is that we don’t miss any opportunity to spend time with God. That we focus in on Christ and his will for our lives. That when the savior of the world is close at hand, we don’t blink and miss him.
Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. I Corinthians 15:51-52