The Mystery of the Magi

“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.  Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.”  Matthew 2:11-12
This passage is from the gospel reading the Sunday before Epiphany and marks the end of the Christmas season.  I have heard the story of the Magi visiting the baby Jesus countless times and have listened to countless homilies regarding the passage, but this past Sunday, I heard a new interpretation, and even more interesting, I heard it twice from two different priests.  I was always told that when you hear something over and over again, the Holy Spirit is trying to draw your attention to it.
Last Sunday I was ringing handbells with my church’s bell choir and we were scheduled for two Masses, so we heard the gospel reading twice, each with an accompanying homily.  Both priests started out by reflecting on the obvious “take home” messages of the significance of the gifts and the mysterious number of Magi that might have visited the child Jesus.  Not much is actually known about the Magi; they may not even have been kings as in the famous carol.  However, they were known to have followed the stars.  They knew the patterns and alignments the stars were supposed to hold in the sky.  No wonder they were struck when they beheld one star pointing to where Jesus lay in a manger far away.  Stars move regularly across the sky, so how unusual and alarming to see a star that didn’t move with the rest.  The message of the star holds a very special place in my heart because I often struggle to keep my eyes on the Lord.  It is so easy to lose my focus to daily trivial grievances.  When I do get lost, what saves me is the Holy Spirit’s quiet voice saying “look up!”  The simple act of looking up and taking my gaze away from myself helps me remember once again that the Lord is in control.  It is a beautiful message and I need to remember it, not just during the Christmas season but throughout the entire year.
As wonderful as the message that the Star of Bethlehem provides for us is, it was not the final one of either of the homilies I heard last Sunday.  Both priests chose to focus on the last sentence in the gospel passage:  “they departed for their country by another way.”  All my life, that sentence has been interpreted as being a warning that the Magi should avoid Herod.  Instead, the priests took the focus off the evil of Herod and refocused on the impact Jesus Christ can have on our lives.  Herod is truly not important and only a side character in this Christmas story.  Giving him credit for the Magi’s decision to change direction might miss the main point of the Magi’s journey.  The priests said the Magi changed direction because they had seen Jesus Christ.  Anyone who has encountered Jesus is forever changed and will never be the same.  He or she will change course once they have come to know Christ personally.  Their lives will be forever changed.
This final message hit me because I am at another point in my life where I am literally changing course because of my personal encounter with Jesus.  I am moving to Connecticut at the beginning of February, on a path I have never taken before, but I am going because I have seen Jesus Christ and He is calling me there.  Following where Christ leads does not always appear to make sense (I am leaving a good community where I have been very happy), but it is always the best way.  A new and grand adventure awaits; I cannot turn back and abandon it now.

2 thoughts on “The Mystery of the Magi

  1. It seems fitting that you are embracing “a different way” at this time of Epiphany. The end of the Christmas season always makes me a little sad, although I know it will return. You point out that we should hold its great and glorious message all year as we journey through the other liturgical seasons that are just as wonder-full. May your new path to a new state bring you many blessings as you celebrate them all, “looking up” for guidance as you go.

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  2. Good morning dear,

    Well once again I don’t see my comment but have used my new back up method, so here it is.

    Your words made me wonder if James Taylor heard a similar homily or if God used some other method to tip his thinking along the same lines back in the 80s when he wrote “Home by Another Way” © 1988 all rights reserved

    Those magic men the Magi,

    Some people call them wise,

    Or Oriental, even kings.

    Well anyway, those guys,

    They visited with Jesus,

    They sure enjoyed their stay,

    Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme,

    They went home by another way.

    Yes, they went home by another way,

    Home by another way.

    Maybe me and you can be wise guys to,

    And go home by another way.

    We can make it another way,

    Safe home as they used to say,

    Keep a weather eye to the chart on high,

    And go home another way.

    Steer clear of royal welcomes.

    Avoid a big to-do.

    A king who would slaughter the innocents,

    Will not cut a deal for you.

    He really, really wants those presents.

    He’ll comb your camel’s fur,

    Until his boys announce,

    They’ve found trace amounts,

    Of your frankincense, gold and myrrh.

    Time to go home by another way,

    Home by another way.

    You have to figure that God’s saying play the odds,

    And go home by another way.

    We can make it another way,

    Safe home as they used to say.

    Keep a weather eye to the chart on high,

    And go home another way.

    Home is where they want you now.

    You can more or less assume that you’ll be welcome in the end.

    Mustn’t let King Herod haunt you so,

    Or fantasize his features when you’re looking at a friend.

    Well it pleasures me to be here,

    And to sing this song tonight.

    They tell me that life is a miracle,

    And I figured that they’re right.

    But Herod’s always out there,

    He’s got our cards on file.

    It’s a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch,

    Old Herod likes to take a mile.

    It’s best to go home by another way,

    Home by another way.

    We got this far to a lucky star,

    But tomorrow is another day.

    We can make it another way.

    Safe home as they used to say.

    Keep a weather eye to the chart on high,

    And go home another way.

    On Sun, Jan 12, 2020 at 3:51 PM Kitty in the City wrote:

    > klars319 posted: “”They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering > the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated > themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and > offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. ” >

    Like

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