Friday, January 3, 2014

The Quest of the Magi

The people of the Gospel lesson for the Feast of the Epiphany (Matthew 2:1-12) are an interesting cast of characters. We are first introduced to King Herod the Great who ruled in the South of Israel at the time of the birth of Jesus. He was a cruel and unforgiving sort of man who with repeated frequency kills anyone who might be perceived as a king in his place. He killed many people, including his own sons and his own wives if he felt threatened by them. Herod the Great was an appointed ruler by the Roman Empire and had to remain in the Emperor’s good graces in order to remain in power. So as a consequence of this, he was both brutal and tyrannical in his rule of the people.

Enter in one day to Herod the Great’s palace, the Herodium in Jerusalem, the wise men three who share the news that a new and the true King of the people has been born and they know this by the signs of creation they have been watching and following for some time. We know that these are men of faith. We are made aware that they are men of intelligence and of wealth. They are on a mission to find this newborn, heaven sent King so that they can worship him, give gifts and acknowledge his rule. This news creates fear in not only pretender Herod, but also in those who learn of the message that has been brought to the palace – that there is a true King. Work was done to learn where and when the king was to be born. As news spread from the palace it threw the city of Jerusalem into an uproar: many rejoiced at the news, some were trouble and others were genuinely fearful of what was going to happen next. The Wise men were asked to locate the child and then return with news that the pretender could go and repeat the action.

On the road to Bethlehem, they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod. So when the time came they went back to their own country by a different, unwatched route. When they arrived in Bethlehem, they sought out the house and the place where the boy King could be found and when they got there, they saw the Child Jesus and his mother, Mary.  Joseph might not have been there, he might have been out at work or somewhere else.  After seeing the child, they brought gifts out of what they had been blessed with – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold is given for life, welfare and fortune. Frankincense is offered for the continual prayer and worship of the God who he is and who sent him. Myrrh is presented for the day of the royal burial of the body.   

Then having seen, worshipped and given, they begin the trip home, reflecting and rejoicing in what they had seen, learned and done in the work and travel to find the one that the Star of Bethlehem had announced.

That of course is not the end of the story, Herod in his wrath, sends soldiers to Bethlehem with orders to kill the boys of Bethlehem two years old and under (Feast of the Holy Innocents). Joseph is warned in a dream of the violence and death that is coming. And so Joseph takes wife and child to Egypt for a time. They do not return until led by the Lord to return to the North of Israel where Jesus finishes up his childhood and prepares for his ministry by working in his earthly father’s trade of carpentry.

So where does this leave us? What does this makes us in light of the Gospel. Paul points out in the Epistle lesson that we are the following: heirs with Christ of the kingdom; members of His body; sharers in the promise of Christ Jesus in the Gospel. Most of all, we are witnesses of the Christ and of his kingdom to the kingdoms and princedoms, the powers and authorities of this earth. We are witnesses and seekers of the once and true King.

God’s actions and ideas can be accepted and acted upon. God can be rejected and disavowed through our own stubborn self indulgent will and rebellious spirits. But God in Christ in this moment, cannot and will not be ignored. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He is God with the flesh on – how will you respond to his advent to you? What will you do?


No comments:

Post a Comment