In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in
Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is
the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its
rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was
frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief
priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to
be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by
the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least
among the rulers of Judah for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my
people Israel.” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from
them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem,
saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him,
bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard
the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had
seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When
they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering
the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and
paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of
gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return
to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
The Magi are the focus in today’s feast of Epiphany
because they are pagans who did not know the true God of the Jews. Yet that
true God revealed to them that the King he promised to the Jews had come.
They were told that the expected Prince was born. So
they came to Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah to find the Prince with the
expectation that the whole country would be rejoicing for the good news.
Instead, they found suspicion and hatred in the reigning king, who turned into
a murderer in a few days.
They also found that the religious leaders were knowledgeable
about their past history but were utterly ignorant about the present and
future. These leaders knew the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, therefore,
they must have realized that the Magi were very sure of the truth revealed to
them because they would not have come such a long journey on a fool’s errand.
In spite of that, the thought of going to Bethlehem with the Magi never
occurred to their minds.
Some of them were the leaders who some years later
refused to listen to Christ and in spite of his miracles. They refused to admit
his claim that he was not only the promised Messiah, but the true Son of God.
These were the men who rejected him because he had mercy on sinners and spoke
of a future life. What they wanted from their Messiah was political power and
earthly freedom and prosperity. Like Herod they ended with murder which was the
crucifixion of the King of Jews.
We too know the true facts concerning Christ, his
mission and his present and future kingdom. Like the leaders of the Jews of his
day, we also could become absorbed in the affairs of this life and the quest
for wealth, pleasure and power.
We could become so totally absorbed in such things as
to have neither the interest not the time to pay our respects to Christ or to
welcome him into our homes and our hearts as our true Lord.
God forbid it should ever be thus with us. Rather let
us resolve this morning to make the Magi our models to follow them to Bethlehem
and offer him all that we have and are. He will accept our offering and we will
return by another way which makes us wiser and becoming better men and women.