Summary: The Magi were humbled by the state of reverence that they felt for the Christ Child. That, my friends, is the appropriate motivation for worship in our church services today. We need to put away our pride and worldly baggage and worship Christ sincerely.
Well, the 12 days of Christmas are over for another season. All of the decorations are down and put away for another year, and the presents have been opened. The craziness of the Christmas season is over for the secular world, but here in the church, we have some more of the Christmas story to tell.
This morning we have heard the Gospel story of the Three Wise Men. It seems to be an odd story, and it only appears in Matthew's Gospel. Have you ever wondered why he chose to include it? Well I have, and the only conclusion I have come to is that the oddness of Matthew's own life made him include the story of the three wise men. Matthew was the tax collector turned disciple. Paying taxes today is NOTHING like it was in Jesus' time. First, you paid your regular taxes to the Emperor...OR ELSE! Then you had to pay "the special tax" to the tax collector...or risk getting beat up.
We might not be bullies or thugs or tax cheats...but we all have our own strange stories. Some of us have been lifelong, faithful church members, and some of us are new members. Some of us were born and raised in the church, but lost our way for a time and found our way back to the church. In any event, SOMETHING drew us to the church. Those of us who, like the Magi, live the greatest distance from the areas of God's grace often use the most diligence and learn the most from Christ and His salvation. Matthew certainly did...and we all know what the result was. Matthew, like the rest of us, was not directed to Christ by learning. He, like us, attended to the word of God like a light that shines in a dark place. There is an old adage that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. Those who live in darkness and under bondage and later receive the light and Spirit of adoption into God's grace receive great joy, especially when they witness with their spirit that they are children of God.
The Magi reflect the aspirations of Israel that one day the wise and powerful would come to Zion and acknowledge Yahweh. The story's message is that the best of the world's wisdom acknowledges the Christ. It also reflects a generous prophecy that the nations of the world would come together in peace-a prophecy that is still unfulfilled today. Another prophecy that is referred to by this story is the domination or destruction of the Gentiles and Israeli domination of the world. This prophecy has consequences ranging from anti-Semitism to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The most important prophecy of this story, however, is the message that Jesus' ministry is one of inclusiveness.
The Holy Family's flight into Egypt to escape Herod's wrath and subsequent return parallels Israel's exile into Egypt and return under Moses' leadership. Herod was jealous of the prospect of another king. HE did not want to fall down and worship Christ; however, we MUST fall down and worship Christ as our King, as our God lives. The Magi wanted to protect the baby Jesus, but understood that the best thing they could do was to draw Satan's tool-Herod-away from the Christ Child.
The Magi opposed eastward expansion of the Roman Empire. Their visit represented foreign interference in the affairs of a puppet appointed by Rome-namely, Herod. Herod consulted with the religious leaders of his kingdom, especially the Sadducees. Now the Sadducees rejected the Prophets as part of Scripture. Only the Pharisees accepted those books of scripture beyond those included in the Jewish Torah. Matthew lumped the Pharisees, Herod and the Sadducees together to answer the question of where the Messiah would be born. Herod's private consultation with the Magi was viewed with suspicion because secretive individuals were seen as untrustworthy. Who today would be threatened by the birth of a King who was determined to protect the rights of the alienated?
Herod was religious when it served his purpose. Are we the same today? Are we using the talents God gave us to feed His sheep? Wisdom comes from Godsight, when we change our lives to fit scripture and NOT vice-versa. If we want to be a leader in the eyes of Christ, we must lift our wrists before us, allow them to be bound in love, and be prepared to lead the way to our own Cross
The three gifts that the Magi brought were more than just gifts-they were symbols. GOLD was known to be a gift for a king, and would have been needed by the Holy Family during their time in Egypt. FRANKINCENSE was burned during temple worship, and represented prayers offered to God, our King. MYRRH was used to embalm the bodies of dead people, and was a hint that the King of kings was to die for our sins. The meaning of this Gospel story is clear-the one born in Bethlehem is the promised Messiah. Is He the object of our worship today? A brief reminder from Martin Luther may suffice: