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 Christ 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.
Sign | Scientists | Studied the Skies | Star | Splash | Sovereign | Son of God | Celebrate
Sometimes we have a clear indication that God is sending us a sign about himself. I think this is one of those times in the Bible that we see people who see God’s signs and respond the right way. This is the lesson of the Gospel today.
The Magi/Wise men from the east were an analog for today’s scientists. They were a combination of philosopher / astronomer / astrologer / professor for ancient cultures and we actually have no clue where they came from or what they actually did. What we do know is that they studied the skies and they saw a star that indicated something so remarkable, it prompted them to leave their homes in the east and travel likely thousands of miles is search of what it pointed to. And something you should know about me, is that when I was a child, all I wanted to be in life was a scientist – and to someday discover something amazing.
Think about that – what would you have to see to leave your home and travel on foot/camel/caravan for 1000 miles? It would have to be something pretty amazing! If a friend of yours said that he saw Jesus in Colorado and the only way you had to get there was your bike, would you go?
Although tradition says there were three Magi, again we don’t know if this is right – there could they were 2 or 20. They likely didn’t come alone, but with a whole caravan of people supporting them, which is why they made such a splash when they arrived into Bethlehem. Think about it – if three people wandered into a town, would the mayor of the town know about it? Probably not. But think about the caravan of migrants from central America coming – everyone knew about it. The mayor, the governor, the president. This is likely similar to what Herod was experiencing – a large group was approaching. Were they coming as envoys to a conquering army? Herod had to know why they came, so the Magi were given instant audience with him as the ruler.
I could spend a lot of time on Herod here, but I’m going to chose not to. He’s a pretty terrible fellow and there isn’t much about God we can learn from him… Instead, I’m going to focus on the Magi. They asked:
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
Boy – it sounds like they saw a star in the sky, and up and left their home thousands of mile away for the king of the Jews? I don’t think so…
I think they knew the rest of the prophecies about Jesus as well. About how HE would be the one to reconcile the human race with God – THE Messiah.They had the opportunity to discover something that no scientist, astronomer, sorcerer, or wise man had ever seen. God in human form. This is better than Einstein discovering relativity.
THAT would be enough to spur them to the actions they took. It sure would be enough for me. Wow!
Think about it. They are scientists – who thrill in discovery – and they just found the mother lode!
So what do they do when they come face to face with the babe Christ?
- They recognize him.
- They celebrate!
- They worship him.
- They present their gifts.
I think this story is a pretty good analogy of how God wants our life’s journey with Him to progress. First, he wants us to look for signs of pointing to Him in our life. When we find those signs, He wants us to drop everything in search of Him, wherever that journey takes us. On our journey, He wants us to ask others about where He might be found. When we find Him, He wants us to recognize him and then wants us to celebrate that we have found Him – Mass is a great way to do this. He then desires that we worship Him, and present Him with our offerings – knowing that our gifts originate from Him, but He delights in our giving, which honors Him.