Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – The Coming of the Magi

Back on Monday Dec 31 I shared with you the poem “The Queens Came Late”. With the RCL highlighting Epiphany I wanted to give time and space to the Magi. I have the meme below posted on my Facebook page. It and the poem presents a different perspective on this day an season, being gender inclusive.

I also found a more humorous take on the coming of the magi. It amuses me, and presents a more lighthearted look Epiphany.

But my seeking and finding lightheartedness and amusement does not mean I do not take the coming of the Wise Men seriously. I join with biblical authorities who discerned that Jesus coming for all people is an important event and needs to be represented in the church and liturgical year.

“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.” (Matthew 2:1 -2)

When something important happens we make time and space to attend to it properly. Biblical geography and biblical scholars tell us that the Magi came from a great distance and took the time to travel to Bethlehem. The poem “The Queens Came Late” tells us the same thing. But not everyone deems important things the same way.

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.'” (Verses 3 – 6)

This tells us two things (if not more); no one yet – since it was written by Isaiah – had been born that would be considered a shepherd to the people of Israel. That it was these “chief priests and scribes of the people” who made the connection between this prophecy and the infant Jesus.

“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.” (Verses 7 – 8)

Be suspicious of Herod, beloved reader. If he so earnestly wanted to worship the child, why did he call them in secret? Read further to have your suspicions confirmed.

“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.” (Verse 9)

It is interesting, is it not, that the star seemed to wait for them to finish their business with Herod before it lead them on. Granted, I do not know much about stars and constellations, but they seem to move independently from the doing of humanity.

“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.” (Verses 10 – 11)

Wasn’t this foretold also? Sure it was – we read it Monday. Well, not the myrrh. That was not in the verses from Isaiah. Myrrh, as I remembered and briefly researched, is associated with both healing and death. Myrrh is also mentioned in the hymn “We Three Kings”. Go ahead and look it up – I’ll wait.

“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Verse 12)

While the coming of the Magi may signify the coming of Jesus the Messiah to the Gentiles, their visit also had other significance. And set about a series of events in the wake of Jesus’ birth. And like Mary, I ponder all of these things in my heart. Selah and Shalom!