Greetings all, here is your e-votional…
“Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 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.” 9 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. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,g they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 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. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.”-Matthew 2: 7-12
We have constructed something of a Frankenstein’s Monster version of the Christmas story with pieces taken from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, and this story is one of those parts. While the Shepherds arrive at the manger when Jesus is just an infant, the wisemen come much later, when he is perhaps as old as two, in search of him.
While Luke sends the most humble of people, shepherds, to Jesus, Matthew sends him foreign dignitaries under the seeming control of the Imperial Authority, the madman Herod. But as we know, the wisemen are on to Herod’s game and they actually warn Jesus and his family to flee Judea for the relative safety of Egypt.
The wisemen, like the shepherds in Luke, remind us of one important and often overlooked aspect of Jesus’ life. He was born into an Empire. In Luke, he is born in a barn because his father had to travel to another town for the Roman census. Here, in Matthew, the Roman puppet governor fears Jesus’ birth and seeks to kill him. In both instances, we see the ways in which the work of God will come into conflict with the Empires which rise and fall in this world.
The wisemen are perhaps the first, but far from the last, to defy the worldly powers in service of Jesus. And it is this decision, to defy the mad king and serve God, that marks their wisdom. For us today, the actions of the Magi are powerful reminders that we too live in a world where are pulled by both the forces of Empire and Faith; where we must make decisions which sometimes compromise or the other. While we can often feel blind to these choices, careful observation reveals them.
The Frankenstein’s Monster of Christmas we have created is peaceful and elegant; comforting in its simplicity. But the real Christmas event was one which immediately revealed one of the central human conflicts, God or Empire. As we begin this new year, I invite you to reflect on this conflict and remember which we are called to choose.
Prayer: Holy God, we thank you for sending your Son into this world. We ask that we would have the courage to follow and serve him, and that through our work, we might hasten the arrival of your Kingdom in this world. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen