Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Today we look as the Magi? They were quite interesting characters. Astrologers and astronomers, keepers of ancient wisdom and dabblers in black arts. They Jews saw them as evil because they did many things condemned by the Old Testament, fortune telling, communicating with the dead, magic potions, etc. Yet they might have been influenced by Jews that were exiled to Babylon. Not all of them came back. The Magi were capable of passing on ideas through  the centuries and were known to borrow knowledge from a wide variety of sources. So the idea of a Messiah might have been on their radar.

God gives them the most dramatic, supernatural sign yet. He sends a star. He is speaking their language. They knew stars well. It would not have had to be that bright to get their attention. Yet God sent them something. There is lots of speculation about what that might have been. Fun stuff.

The important thing is they responded. They packed up their stuff and crossed a dessert into Roman territory. Lots of risks. They discern a call of God and obey it. Echoes of Abram's journey in Gen 12. They go.

The gifts have received a lot of attention as well.  Gold, frankincense, and myrrh correspond roughly to the 3 vows of religious life of poverty, celibacy and obedience. Gold obviously goes with poverty. The idea of offering God our money and our possession. Frankincense corresponds with obedience. Incense is something we worship with. Obedience is how we live out that worship. Myrrh is a bit more of a stretch but it is a burial perfume. It is associated with death. It is offering our life to God. Celibacy is connected with that. It is offering a key part of your life to God. There is the notion of missing out on some of physical pleasure associated with being young and alive fro the sake of a higher good. So it is a martyrdom of a sort.

The Magi have been analyzed a lot considering how little mention they get in the bible. King Herod is the opposite. We like to forget him. Many Christmas pageants omit him. The almost never mention the massacre of the Holy Innocents. But Herod and the Magi shed light on each other. The Magi show faith and a willingness to embrace the kingship of Christ. Herod shows belief and a determination to resist it.

Herod does not ignore Jesus. He does not assume the Magi are just stupid. He is aware of the Messianic prophecies. He basically assumes they are legit. Think about that. He believes God predicted centuries earlier that a child would be born in Bethlehem. He believes that same God put a star in the sky and led these Magi to Judea. Yet he responds not by bowing down to this God but by fighting him. If God is really that big then what makes him think he can win such a fight? Pride. Really an irrational reaction.

Yet how often don't we play that game? How often do we look at God and His call on our lives and play it halfway? We don't dismiss God as a myth but we don't fully worship Him either. We try and manipulate Him. If we think about who God is and who we are that is pretty stupid. Yet we do it. At least I do.

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