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. (Matthew 2:1-12, NRSV)
How many of you have Wise Men or Magi in your nativity scenes for Christmas?
We have lumped the wise men into the Christmas scene because Jesus was young. There are however clues from the story above that should make us question the wise men arriving at the birth. And these are all aside from the fact that if the ones coming seeking were women, they would have arrived early, made a meal and helped with the birth! (The last part is from jokes I have heard about the wise men arriving 2 years later and not meant to be offensive.)
But the clues. The star comes when? When Jesus is born. Ok so if the star appeared at Jesus’ birth how could the wise men be there when He was born? Ok the reading doesn’t actually say when the star appeared, but they observed it at it’s rising, and it is true God could have made it rise in time for wise men to arrive.
But the biggest clues that this is different time than the birth is where the wise men see Jesus. In the reading above from Matthew the wise men saw the child with Mary, on entering the house. So they are in a house when the wise men arrive and Luke clearly says there was no room at the inn so the birth was in a manger. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7, NRSV)
So the reading above is the celebration of Christ being made known to the world, or the Gentiles and is the Epiphany of Jesus!
Let us continue to make Him known to the world and to herald this story as one of great love being shared with all!