The Reverend Victoria Mason, Deacon
The story of the three Wise Men is very interesting on many levels. At first, it is a curious account of three foreigners, scholars, who wanted to determine whether their studies of the stars, particularly a special star, was correct. They chose to travel to the land where they believed they could get answers. Their journey is an example of an act of faith – an act motivated by academic curiosity.
It’s also an example of how there are many ways to find God. In this case, curiosity. We remember the shepherds who left the sheep behind in the field and went to Bethlehem because the angels told them of the Messiah's birth. In this case, they had a sign.
Each of us here had a reason to come to Jesus for the first time – perhaps it was simple curiosity, or maybe there was sign or maybe some other incentive. I remember the story of a young man who was in prison and had no hope. He found Jesus when he started reading the pages in his Bible.
The confrontation of the wise men with King Herod, who served the Roman Empire, gives us an insight of the political context. Herod was afraid when he heard that the sages were searching for the recently born king of the Jews. His position of power depended on having control of the government of the Jews. The Roman Empire was a government of conquerors and this possibility of a Jewish king created a serious threat.
With this perspective of the story, we need to remember that the Jews believed that the Messiah would lead them to the freedom of the oppression of the Roman Empire. They believed that the Messiah would be a great military leader and a righteous king – much like King David. But Jesus' ministry was not like that. Jesus' ministry was countercultural – he incarnated the power of love, healing, justice, and inclusion. It is a testament to these powers that Jesus' life and ministry was stronger and more durable than the power of the Roman Empire.
In the end, the encounter of the wise men with the child, Jesus, gives us insight into the Kingdom of God. The homage of the Magi means that other people of various nations and religions, can know the Glory of God. That God is the king of all the world, not just for one group of people, in this case the Jews.
Also, we remember that Jesus' family was not rich. Bethlehem was a village, a very small and humble town. And, here were three people of wealth, education, and status of honor, kneeling to this child, paying homage and giving him very expensive and rare gifts.
I think they underwent a transformation in their lives. Not only that could they understand that they needed to avoid Herod and return to their country by another way, but also that their hearts were overflowing with the Glory of God.
In the Old Testament, "the Glory of God" in Hebrew meant "the Presence of God." And when anyone was in the Presence of God, they were was transformed. Remember what happened to Moses when saw the Glory of God? His face “shone from having spoken to the Lord. ... he put a veil on his face” because people could not look at him directly. Well, it makes sense that the Three Wise Men were also transformed after seeing Jesus.
Can you recall a time when your life seemed changed when you came to Jesus with a prayer? A time when you experienced relief? Or a sense of peace? Maybe you didn’t feel the change instantly; maybe it happened over a period of time.
For example, there was a period of time in my life when I flew to various parts of the country often. I started experiencing the fear of flying. I needed to change this, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. With prayer, I devised a visual image of putting my fear in a wooden box and handing the box to Jesus. I used this image every time I got on a plane and was preparing for the take off. I can tell you there were many times when I grabbed that box away from Jesus when the ride got bumpy. But I always admonished myself to give the box back to Jesus. It was a couple years after I started using this image as a prayer that I realized that I no longer had the fear of flying.
Every time we pray, especially in those darker moments of life, we are giving God the gift of ourselves. We are offering our whole self to God. And when we do that, we are in the Presence of God.
And through this story of the Wise Men, we can believe -- believe that our prayers to God are like their journey to Bethlehem. When we pray, we are looking for the King of our hearts. We're following the star of hope. We're looking at the glory of God. And in prayer, we are transformed. In prayer, Jesus gives us power – the power of love, healing, justice and inclusion. And in this power, we are able to face any problem and overcome our fears.
We can know that the Lord always walks alongside us at every moment of every day. And we can to move forward with confidence that God is helping us carry our burdens.
Thanks be to God!