Thursday, December 25, 2014
Hear the Magi, Christmas is a time to search and discern well!
St. Matthew 2:1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd[d] my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men[e] and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,[f] until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Christmas is a time when we come together in a rushed time of holidays, get together, shopping, exchanging gifts and making and buying cakes. The lent comes to an end with a lavish spread shared between family. It is a celebration befitting a kingly and grand occasion and the birth of Christ is indeed lavishly and joyfully remembered. But what does Christmas symbolize? It does among many things symbolize the realization and search of spirituality by the Magi (wise people) and takes us back to the time when the Magi and King Herod looked at the same birth in two different ways.
The Magi followed the star and thought of the great one as being naturally in the palace and kingdom and may have been misled into thinking that Herod would know about the whereabouts of the child Jesus? It might have been natural for them to think that the child would be in a palace. But they are not helped by Herod as the birth is news for him as well. He is shocked that someone else could come to question his authority and his stranglehold on the people. Rather than being happy about the news, he is worried and he calls his advisors to know what this is all about. They confirm his worst fears and he thinks about what to do in the light of a new challenger to his unquestioned rule.
He does what he thinks best and that is to make the Magi spy on his behalf. He outsources the spy work that would have been done by his own army, to the wise people. Either this was a horrible short sight from his part or he was so confident that the Magi would be faithful to his power and arrogance that he left the job with them. His own wise men also fail him because they did not inform him about this before he came to know through the Magi. The Magi follow the star, see the baby, offer their gifts and go their way. This passage speaks to us in a big way in a time like Christmas.
One, the wise people come to the palace because they are misled like many of us that spirituality and prosperity are interlinked. They expect the baby in the palace and perhaps stop trusting the star. It was natural, like it is for all of us to trust the leader that we have and expect good things to come from the leader. Why would one expect anything else? But this is not what happens. To the contrary the leader is the opposite of what they think. He is scared and challenged by the news of the birth of the Messiah and a ruler other than himself, even if it was for the good of all. Power, position and authority don’t mean truth and sincerity. Our society teaches us to overly depend on positions and people in places of authority so blindly that we finally end up being like the wise people who went to Herod trusting him. They did what we would do today.
Two, listen to your voice which may sometimes be the opposite of what people in authority say. The Magi fall into the trap laid by Herod and they go to see the baby as spies of Herod, without being aware of it themselves. They also fulfill the official duty of representing the authorities, although they originally come of their own accord. But after they see, pay homage to and give the baby the gifts they had brought, they make a very important decision. That is to not listen to Herod and instead go their own way. Till here Herod has everything covered. But the wise people trust the voice of God which comes to them and question authority and the role given to them and move on. Even though they were law abiding citizens, they listen to a higher voice which tells them to stand for truth rather than authority laced with abuse of power and corrupt practices. This nice group of people pulls of a coup without making a bone of it.
So let this Christmas be a time of two things. We should be able to search to see where the Messiah is. We should also bring ourselves to a position of accepting that the Messiah is in a place we least expect. We should also be able to discern for ourselves and go against the official point of view of being spies for people in authority and have the courage to being followers of the light which will lead us to our own paths and our own decisions. Amen.