Some magi (or magicians) decide to travel west because they have seen a star. I have seen so much more than a star and seldom have I made the sacrifice that these men made to visit the Christ child. They came to honor the king of the Jews, but they met the Messiah. They brought with them gold, frankincense and myrrh. (There is another story that tells it a little different – The Secret of the Gifts.)
There are others in this story. Sadly, I identify more with some of these other characters than I do with the magi. There is, for instance, king Herod. He is a harsh and cowardly man. Upon hearing of another king of the Jews he fills the city of Jerusalem with fear. As if he is really in charge anyway. Everyone knows that he is a mere puppet for Rome. Still, he believes he is in control and he is bent on keeping that control – at all costs.
Then there are the scribes and the teachers of the law. Where does one turn when one demands an answer? In first century Palestine you turned to the priests. The priests had the right answer. They had studied the prophets and they knew that the Messiah, not just a king, would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. It seems though that they were too busy with their religious duties to care much. Notice they never leave Jerusalem to go and find the child. At least Herod sends an army after him.
Let’s not forget the people. They are going about their lives unaware that God has visited them; unaware that Immanuel is now among them. They have been waiting and longing, but alas they will have to wait longer. Their leaders – the king and the priests – have failed to lead them to Jesus.
Finally, there is Mary. She is caring for the child. What an odd thing to do, care for Messiah. She’s in good company though. Jesus later tells the story of sheep and goats being separated from one another. He tells the sheep that they gave him water when he was thirsty, fed him food when he was hungry, cared for him when he was sick, and so on. The sheep protested saying they never saw him in any of these states. Jesus replies with words that haunt, “Whatever you do to the least of these you have done unto me.” (Matthew 25)
Now there is you and there is me. How do we fit into this story? Are we seeking after Jesus, without truly knowing the implications of such actions? What gifts do we bring to honor him? What gifts, indeed, are fitting for the creator of the universe? Are we afraid of losing control? What if Jesus makes me go to Africa? (There are far worse things!) What if he demands that I let go of my addiction – and he will – or worse yet, that I let go of my unforgiveness? Are we too busy being religious to pay much attention to Jesus?
I hope we find ourselves in the beautiful position of seeking after Jesus. I hope we discover the mystery of Immanuel. I hope we embrace the opportunity to look after Jesus; to care for him when we see him thirsty, hungry, naked, sick or in prison. I hope that, like Mary, we discover the wonder of the love of God made fully available in His only begotten Son. Amen.