Truly Wise Men and Women
by Pr. Dave Mann
Of all the characters of the original Christmas story, the magi are my favorite. There is a striking contrast between the religious leaders in Jerusalem and the magi. The magi, supposing that the appearance of the star was a sign that the reigning king (Herod) must have had a newborn child, made the long trip, and stopped at Herod’s palace. But they found no royal newborn there to honor. Herod, suspecting that there might be a challenge to his power, called on the religious leaders to ascertain what the Hebrew prophecies might say. The priests actually knew the Scriptures and correctly cited Micah 5:2, pointing the magi to Bethlehem.
The magi were delighted, especially when the star reappeared and confirmed the matter, as it moved toward Bethlehem. They advanced to Bethlehem, where they presented their gifts and worshiped Jesus. These mysterious men -- from a pagan culture, probably immersed in astrology, presuming that stars had the power to give spiritual advice – these people, in some ways very distant from the truth, actually drew near and worshiped Jesus.
But the chief priests, what did they do? Did they exhibit the slightest bit of curiosity that perhaps the Messiah was born? Did they even send someone to Bethlehem to check it out? They had the Scriptures, they had the head knowledge, and they were able to cite the specific verse concerning the birthplace of the coming Messiah. But did this knowledge move them one step closer to God? Did they ask God for the eyes to recognize their Messiah? Sadly, no.
As I write this reflection, I suppose that most of you who read this reflection are like me. We have more in common with the chief priests than with the magi. We have knowledge of the Scriptures. We can often cite chapter and verse. We participate in religious events, especially at Christmas time. We are not involved with the stars; we would not make a long, hard trip to honor an unknown newborn king.
Because of this uncomfortable comparison, I fall on my knees and implore the Lord:
O Lord, use the example of the magi to shake us out of our spiritual and religious slumber. Lord, use the curiosity of the magi to move me to worship, to obey, to offer our gifts and ourselves to you. May we be wise men and women who truly follow Jesus. Amen.