The Visit of the Wise Men
Text: Matthew 2: 1-12
The writer of Matthew’s Gospel moves the story from Luke’s Gospel narrative to a different setting for the birth of Jesus. The story opens with Herod as Emperor, the chief Priest, law makers and a group of wealthy foreigners named as the Magi. The events leading to the visit would have occurred later than the day when the birth of Jesus occurred. Joseph is not mentioned as being present. There is no reference to a manger.
The group of “wise” men from the East journeyed to Jerusalem. They had seen a large star in the Eastern sky that was a sign that a child who would be king of the Jews was born. There is no indication in Matthew’s Gospel as to how many were in the group who made the long journey. Nor why they were identified as wise men. Neither are they referred to as “ kings” as sung in popular Christmas songs. They may have been astronomers . The Gospel story refers to the star as a sign from God that the King of the Jews was born. The star led the group to Jerusalem. It stopped and stayed stationary over Herod’s Palace while the men were questioned by the Emperor.
Herod was worried. The crowds in Jerusalem were restless. There was news circulating that the Jewish Messiah had been born. Summoning his Chief Priest and lawyers, Herod demanded answers. “Where will the Messiah be born?” They replied that the birth had taken place in Bethlehem. Herod then sent a secret message to the men from the East who had arrived in Jerusalem. Sounding concerned he requested the visitors to find the Jewish baby in Bethlehem and get back to him so he, Herod, could also worship the child.
The men listened to Herod. They made no promises to come back. As they left the wise men saw that the star that had led them to Jerusalem was stationary over Herod’s palace. The star began to move ahead as the men began their journey to Bethlehem. Finally the star stopped over the place where the child with his mother was staying. The men went in, knelt down and worshipped him. had brought gifts for the child. Each of them placed a gift before Mary and her child. Gold to symbolise Christ as King; Frankincense to symbolise purity and priesthood; Myrrh to symbolise the spices used in times of death. It is Matthew’s naming of the three kinds of gifts that gave rise to the belief that there were only three men from the East who journeyed to Bethlehem.
After presenting their gifts and worshipping the Christ Child the men were warned in a dream to avoid returning to Herod with information. They then journeyed back to their homes taking a different route.
Ponder – Gifts:
The gifts recognised God’s Son as Christ, his identity as prophet and priest, and his death.
What determines the choice of gifts we buy? The price, the occasion, or a connection with the receiver?
Gifts – A Contemporary Story
Angela was happy. Christmas was over. Her parents were on a flight back to their home. The Corona virus restrictions were hardly noticeable as life had returned to normal. “A manageable ‘different’ normal” she thought. Billy her eight year old son walked in carrying four bags. “Hi Mum! These are the toys I don’t want. And I have tidied my room.” He smiled cheekily as Angela wondered what was in each bag. She was just glad that Billy seemed to have reduced the number of toys and gifts that were scattered round his room.
Later in the day Angela drove with Billy to the shopping Mall. Two of the bags would be left at the Charity stall and two would be taken to the Department store from where she had purchased the contents as stocking fillers.
“Look Mum! The circus is back! Look at the tents!” Billy was excited. Angela looked across to the vacant block behind the Mall. What looked like a Tent City had sprung up in the last two days. Men, women and children could be seen moving around. A few were walking towards the entrance to the Mall. Angela took Billy’s hand as they walked to the Mall. As they walked she explained to her son that they were not circus tents. That they were homes for people who had no homes to go to now that the virus had gone away. “But where were they before?” Billy asked looking worried. Angela replied “It’s okay Billy. The government sent them into hotels when the virus was about, Now we don’t have the virus so they have to leave the hotel rooms and find places to live.” “So now they will live in tents?” asked the curious Billy. “We need to move on, son. Come on” Together they entered the Mall keeping a safe distance from those who were moving in and out. They headed first for the Charity Stall.
Their errands done mother and son headed for the exit from the Mall. Billy carried two bags. One had the latest IPad. The other had a few books, including an activities book with a Spider man cover, just because it was school holidays and his mum felt he needed to take time out from his computer games. As they walked out Billy saw a boy about his age seated on the pavement with a few paintings on the ground. Their eyes met. Billy stopped to look at the paintings when he saw Angela talking with another lady. In a few minutes she called out “ Come on Billy! We need to get home.” The boy artist stretched his hand out to Billy. It had a painting on a sheet of paper. Without a word Billy accepted it and dropped one of the bags he was carrying on the boy’s lap. He took off after his Mum.
Arriving home Angela noticed that Billy had one bag and a stained sheet of paper with him. “Where is the other bag Billy? And what’s that dirty looking piece of paper you are holding?. Go put it in the bin and wash your hands well. Then go get the other bag from the car.” Billy did as he was told. He washed his hands and slipped the painting into the Ipad bag he had with him. First he was shocked. Then he felt fear and tears in his eyes. He was holding the bag with the activity books and a painting of a child sitting under a bridge. Billy ran to his room and banged the door shut.
Angela was at her computer. She didn’t hear Billy bang his room door shut. Her mind was on the research she was doing for her church Community Outreach Project titled ‘An Optimistic Future.’
How would you finish this story?