Summary: The Magi are our models for approaching God.
The First Sunday after Christmas
January 4, 2008
St. Andrew’s Anglican Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
The Real Star Trek
In 1966, Star Trek was first aired, but it lasted only three seasons. It was in syndication during the 70s that the show’s popularity grew. Then there was Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Star Trek: Voyager, and finally Star Trek: Enterprise. Each of these Star Trek television series had a different cast.
In addition to the five different Star Trek television series there are ten feature films with another one scheduled to be released in May. There is also the Star Trek animated series. The Guinness Book of World Records reports that the original Star Trek has spawned more spin-offs than any television show in history.
Star Trek has been called “one of the most culturally influential television shows – and perhaps the most influential science fiction television series – in history” (Wikipedia – Cultural Impact of Star Trek). In 1976, NASA named the first Space Shuttle orbiter Enterprise after the mother ship of the original Star Trek. There are scientists and engineers who say that they were influenced by Star Trek to go into their chosen professions.
As much impact as Star Trek has had, there is another star trek that has had even more. That’s the star trek of our gospel lesson this morning.
Mystery surrounds the gospel appointed for the Second Sunday after Christmas and also the Feast of the Epiphany. Wise men come from the east, but we don’t know who they are or from whence they come. These wise men are often called Magi, from the Greek word magoi, meaning priests from Persia, or possessors of supernatural knowledge and power, or magicians, or deceivers, or seducers. The New Testament uses magoi to mean possessors of secret wisdom, and so wise men in a good translation.
Wise men started their trek in the east, but where in the east? Were they from Persia, or Babylon or Arabia? We don’t know. The gifts that they bring suggest Arabia, but we can’t be quite sure. We don’t even know how many wise men there were. Tradition settled on three because there were three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
These mysterious men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." (v. 2)
Herod feels threatened by their question since he is the king of the Jews. Herod is disturbed by the possibility that a rival king of Israel has been born. For whatever reason, “all Jerusalem” joins Herod in being disturbed by news of the birth of this royal child. We’re not told why all Jerusalem is troubled – it could be that they are troubled precisely because Herod is troubled.
The highest religious authorities are drawn into this maelstrom of fear and as Swiss theologian Ulrich Luz notes, “an unholy triple alliance of evil” is formed by Herod, all Jerusalem, and the religious leadership (Theology, p. 27). The leading priests and top Bible scholars inform Herod that the Christ is to be born in “Bethlehem of Judea” according to the prophet Micah (5:2).
What had to be strange to Matthew’s first Jewish readers are these pagan men coming to worship the “King of the Jews” and the religious leaders of Israel collaborating with Herod in opposition to the Christ child. Yet, here we are, with pagan wise men following a star and asking, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (v. 2)
Here we are, with Herod meeting these foreigners secretly to find out when this star appeared. Here we have Herod instructing them, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." (v. 8)
What a deceitful liar is Herod. What a weird scene this is with three Magi from the east coming to worship the Jewish Christ child. In the most famous star trek of all time, a star leads these wise men from the east to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem.
If you were here a few weeks ago you may remember the Dimmer Switch Principle. The Dimmer Switch Principle is that “when we respond to the light” that God gives us, “God gives us more. When we don’t” respond to the light that God gives us, “he takes away the light we already have” (Larry Osbourne, Contrarian, p. 75).
The wise men from the east responded to the light they had and it led them to the King of the Universe. To this king sent by God they offered gifts, costly gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh.