Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Light to the Nations

Today's is the Feast of Epiphany, when we remember the Magi who came from afar to visit the newborn Christ. We know very little about them from scripture. For instance, we do not know where they came from, or even how many of them there were. We do know that they presented three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. We also know that they were following the sign in the sky - a star that somehow showed them where to go.
We know that they took this as a sign that there was a newborn king. Imagine their surprise when they arrived at Herod's palace and found out they were at the wrong place! Then, when they were directed to go to Bethlehem, the star confirmed this as the correct location. Coming to the place where this poor child was, they continues to do the will of God and presented their gifts. How strange that must have been for Mary and Joseph! They most likely had only seen the gold that adorned the temple when they went to Jerusalem. Likewise, people of their humble means would only have seen the priests using incense in the temple. And most strange of all, myrrh was used to prepare dead bodies for burial. Who would give that to a child?!
I have often wondered what happened to the Magi when they returned home. Imagine everyone's surprise when they told of the strange voyage. They must have told family and friends of the reason for their trip, and then when they get back home they would have been asked a lot of questions. Did you find the new king in a great palace? Uhh... not exactly. It was a stable. Was it in a big and important city? Mmmmm.. hardly. Bethlehem was a real small and unimportant town. Surely he was surrounded by important people and a lot of servants. Well.... not quite. Though there were shepherds... and a lot of animals.
I can only imagine that the people were not impressed with the tale. But I wonder if, years later, some of those same friends and relatives of the Magi heard about the Man who was crucified and rose from the dead. I wonder if, when they heard about Jesus, they put the two stories together and realized that the child the Magi visited was the same man who died and rose?
On this Feast of the Epiphany, I pray that each of us will realize the difference we can make if we simply do God's will, even if it does not make sense. The Magi probably did not think it made much sense to go to all that trouble and then find the baby not in a great palace surrounded by servants, but in a stable surrounded by the poor and lowly. But that is what God wanted, and that is what they did. Imagine what could happen if we do what God asks of us? May this new year find each of us doing Go's will, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, each day. And so we will help reveal the Light to the Nations, just as the Magi did long ago.

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