Ask anyone about the Magi, also known as the Three Kings or Three Wise Men, and the first thing that typically comes to mind is either a familiar Christmas tune or the gifts they brought the Christ Child. The fact is, we don’t know a lot about them. They are mentioned only in the Gospel of Matthew, and he offers very few details. But one thing we know for sure–they are among the first pilgrims in the New Testament! In fact, they’re kind of the poster children for a meaningful pilgrimage:
- They journey great distances to foreign lands.
- They travel with an intention.
- They seek to grow closer to Our Lord and pay Him homage.
Like all pilgrims, I have to believe the Magi were changed by their journey. It’s fitting that their feast day is called the “Epiphany,” a word derived from the Greek epiphainen, a verb that means "to shine upon," "to manifest," or “to make known.” A more modern definition is “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something.” I think that’s fitting. They certainly left us with many meaningful insights and things to think about:
- Wise Men (and Women!) Seek Christ
Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, the Magi ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the East and have come to worship him.” The Magi are a salient example of faith, believing in and seeking Christ long before they see Him. We know that when we seek God with sincere determination, we will find Him. He is not hiding from us, and really, we need not go far to find Him. He is always waiting for us, ready to welcome us into a loving and intimate relationship with Him.
- Will you react with fear or excitement when Jesus returns?
Matthew 2:3 tells us that when King Herod heard about the birth of Jesus, “He was greatly troubled.” But in verse 10, we learn the Magi are “overjoyed at seeing the star.” Seeing the star confirms they are on the right path and will soon see the Lord and glorify Him. How does your heart respond knowing that one day Jesus will return? Are you filled with joy like the Magi, eager to see Him, knowing you have shared your gifts? Or are you fearful like King Herod, troubled and concerned with your position and possessions here on earth?
- Always Obey God’s Call—A.S.A.P.
One of the greatest lessons of the birth of Christ is the faith and obedience of so many. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi all hear God’s call and respond affirmatively to His will. More importantly, they respond immediately to what they hear or is revealed. When God calls you or places something in your heart, do you obey immediately? Or do you question it, ponder it, put it off, or try to rationalize a response that is more comfortable and convenient for you? We must all be courageous in responding to God’s call without hesitation.
- Trust That God Will Provide
The gifts of the Magi affirm that God provides for our needs in His perfect time. The gifts they present to the baby Jesus may seem impractical for an infant, yet they prove to be essential for the Holy Family when they are forced to flee to Egypt on short notice. God provides what Joseph needs at just the right time. We can trust that God knows what we need and will provide for us, too.
- Respond to the Lord with a Generous Heart
The Magi teach us that sharing our gifts is pleasing to the Lord and that the size and “practicality” of a gift is not as important as the gift itself. One of the snares we commonly slip into is rationalizing the timing and appropriateness of giving. (I’ll start tithing when my kids are out of college…) How appropriate is it to give a baby a chest of gold and incense? The Magi are not concerned by what the baby King will do with them. The act and spiritual discipline of giving are far more important to God than how or how much we give.
May seeking and glorifying God be our focus this Christmas season. Instead of being distracted by all the glitter and trimmings of the holidays, let’s celebrate the wonderful gift that God sent to save us all!