Going Deeper 1/4/2019

The Gospel reading for Epiphany...

Matthew 2:1-12   In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:  "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 my people Israel.'"  Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  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."   When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  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.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.


This story, depicted with beauty and charm on Christmas cards and in Nativity scenes, is actually a very bizarre and even controversial story.  


Many have sought to simplify the story to make it a bit easier to understand and accept.  While some would conclude that these star-gazers must have been astrologers, others assert that these "wise men"-- also known as "kings" and "magi"-- simply happened to notice an unusual star and somehow decided (or were inspired) to see it as some kind of a sign of the birth of a special king that they should check out.  After all, didn't God forbid astrology in the Old Testament?


Another controversy has to do with the background and ethnicity of these men.  Many have decided that they must have been displaced Jews.  After all, why would Gentiles know anything about the promised coming of a messiah/king?  They very well could have been some descendants of Jews who decided to stay in Babylon ("the East").


There is really no way for us to know all of the facts of this story.  I tend to side with those who believe these were indeed Gentiles-- and quite possibly astrologers.  God was now doing something radically surprising with the sending of Jesus... as we heard from Paul in yesterday's reading.  A mystery was being revealed.  God's plan of salvation was inclusive.  God so loved the world!


The mystery of God's universal grace was and is profound!  Just like this story, we struggle to fully wrap our minds around this vital truth and reality.  But hey, struggle and mystery are good... they keep us open and searching.  Wise men and women still seek Jesus, still seek to more fully know "the way, the truth, and the life"!


With You on the Journey,