The Magi

Matt. 2:1-12 NRSV    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.


Wise men are not typically impulsive people; they are like tenured faculty (think:  an Assistant Wise man, an Associate Wise Man, and the Chair of the Wisdom Department).  Wise men are judicious, methodical, and not often prone to whimsy.  So how did these guys end up out on the road carrying their gifts and following something as imprecise as a star in the sky?  That they would leave home in search of the Christ-child is nearly as astonishing as the star in the sky that led them.

My thinking about this is shaped by a song I love, which was written and performed by David Wilcox.  Rather than talk about the lyrics I’ll simply make them the heart of this reflection.  Note well how the nature of “miracle” changes in the final lines.


A bright star in the winter sky

Led to Bethlehem that night

But only three traveled there to see

And the rest just wished they might

Few will choose to follow

Out of all the star invites

Most will hide safe inside

With the lantern turned up bright

Waiting for a miracle

The journey was a long one

So the story's told

These three guys

Walking side by side

With their incense and gold

People all along the highway

They just shook their heads

They looked hard at that distant star

And went back to bed

'Cause they were

Waiting for a miracle

The star was dim and distant

To those who stayed at home

But every heart that follows

Behold a light was shone

Hark! The herald angels sing

The song is bright and clear

It's so quiet on this road tonight

As the travelers' star appears

But right outside my window

Quiet as can be

All that time making up my mind

The angels wait for me

Waiting for a miracle

— from the album Vista by David Wilcox.

God of the Christmas miracle, you invite us to strike out on the journey of faith trusting that you will give us light enough to guide us and that your love awaits us at the end of our pilgrimage.  May we match your miracle by getting up and seeking you rather than sitting at home.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.