Matthew 2:1-12 NRSVue
1In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star in the east and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him, 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet:
6‘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.’ ”
7Then Herod secretly called for the magi and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then 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.” 9When they had heard the king, they set out, and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen in the east, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On 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. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
Herod was interested in Jesus in an intellectual way, careful that his own position not be affected. I pray for people who keep Jesus at a distance, referring to him as an idea. I realise that my prayer draws me into a relationship and ask that I be ready to accept the consequences that may come to light.
The comfortable and established did not recognise Jesus but the travellers and strangers appreciated who he was. I ask that I be open to the voices of the stranger and to wisdom from other traditions.
In Sartre's play /Barjona/, the Magi explain their journey to the Jewish headman who calls them doting old fools: "Barjona, it is true that we are very old and very wise and we know all the evil in the world. Still, when we saw this star in heaven, our hearts leaped for joy like the hearts of children. We have been like children, and we set out on the road because we wanted to accomplish our duty as men, the duty of hope. The man who loses hope, Barjona, will be chased from his village, and cursed. The stones of the road will be rougher under his feet and the brambles more spiky. The load will weigh heavier on his back, all his misfortunes will plague him like angry bees, and everyone will mock him. But everything smiles on the man who hopes. For him the world is a gift. Come on then, see if you want to stay here or make up your mind to follow us."
The wise men are remembered for their gifts. They highlight that each of us has gifts we can bring to God. The gift most worth giving at any age is our love. In prayer would you like to ask God to accept the love of your life - for husband or wife, friend, children, neighbourhood; think of them now and bring your love of them to the crib and to prayer today. The Magi are remembered also for their journey and their search for God. A star guided them. In prayer can we be grateful for those whose stars brought us to God - through the love, their teaching, the example of their lives?
Can we share some of the joy of the wise men when they found the place they had been looking for? Remember some time in life when you were overcome with joy. Perhaps you can recall when joy filled the heart at a time like a commitment in marriage, falling in love, a great success, at the birth of a child, in deep prayer.
Joy is a gift from God and a share in the nature of God for God is joy. Allow this joy be part of your life now, and part of your prayer. Allow even the tough times of life to find their place there.