Mystery Revealed
Matthew 2:1-12

We’ve seen today’s story play out countless times throughout our lives, in Christmas plays, cartoons, movies, you name it.  We think we know it really well, yet when you dig down a little you realise that we make some assumptions and read between the lines more often than not.

How many wise men were there?  That’s right, we assume three, but it is not mentioned in the text, what we do know is that there were three gifts given, gold, frankincense and myrrh.  There could have been several who gave the identical gift, but we aren’t told in Scripture.  Then of course we have the impression that they arrived while Mary and Joseph were still caring for Jesus in the stable, they are a part of each Christmas narrative, but they had to take the time to travel, to go and check with Herod and then make their way to the city of Bethlehem, and then we can see in the text that on entering the house they saw the child, it says nothing of the stable.

These are assumptions that have been made through years of people telling and perhaps even embellishing the story a little.  When all is said and done those details aren’t perhaps even relevant in the overall scheme of things.  What is important is that these men, apparently wise, have seen a star at its rising and have decided to follow it so that they can pay homage or worship the king of the Jews that they are going to find at the end of their journey.  They came to Jerusalem in search of that king, but instead run into Herod, who it seems is a bit shocked by all that they are saying, he appears to be unaware of what is going on.  So he rounded up his own group of wise ones to try and discover what was going on.

Herod’s advisers knew that the prophecies told of a Messiah in Bethlehem, so he enlisted the help of the foreigners to go and find the new king and let him know where he was.  His plot as we know from last Sunday’s Gospel reading was to have the child killed so as to remove any threat to his own leadership.

So the wise men from the East headed off, following the star until they found Jesus, and there they offered him gifts from their treasure chests and bowed down and worshipped him.  Their role was to come and seek out and then worship. Once they had they turned and headed for home but went on a different way.

In the book of Acts the new movement of Jesus’ followers was known as the Way.  Is this occurrence of the wise men following a different road or way as they headed for home significant?  Perhaps it is.  They came as Magi, magicians, astrologers, diviners and returned having worshipped the one true Messiah, the son of God by following a different path.  Can anyone who has encountered Christ really follow the same path that they were on.  What about Paul, one of the most vicious persecutors of Christians known to man, once he had encountered Jesus he took a very different road, or way, he became an apostle of Jesus, a prisoner for Christ Jesus in order that the Gentiles might come to know Jesus too.

So here we have these pagan men, who have turned to follow a star and then the messiah, guided there we assume by God himself.  Contrasted against King Herod, who was all about his own importance and maintaining his status and power and of course the wise men that he called to advise him, chief priests and scribes of the people, who knew Scripture and the prophecies they contained and yet they didn’t believe and were fearful.

Let’s put that into our context, are there those who have seen Christ revealed to them in some way, and are fearful?  Maybe they are fearful of a change of lifestyle, or of ridicule or missing out on a sleep in on a Sunday morning?  Yes, those people exist in our time and in our community.  What about those who have seen the light of Christ shining in the darkness, do those people exist in our time?  Yes, there are many of us gathered here this morning, we too could have stayed home in bed today, yet we chose to rise from our slumber and come and worship the newborn king ourselves.  We came to receive his gifts for us and to give to him in response of ourselves our time and our possessions.

Have we followed a different way?  Do we conform to the ways of the world or are we following the one who came to shepherd his people.  For many of us we try to maintain a balancing act, living in the world and trying to be all things for all people.  Yes we follow Jesus, we believe in him and we care about his Good News to us, but we want a finger in both pies, an each way bet, to have some of the nice things of this world as well as living in the light of Christ’s grace and forgiveness.  It isn’t easy to leave behind your father and mother and follow Jesus.  Jesus’ own disciples struggled with that, falling asleep on the job and doubting his ability and power and even identity along the way.

Yet when all is said and done, Christ calls us to follow him, we have been chosen to be his people, he wants to be in a relationship with us, he wants us to come and worship him.  He gives to us so that we can give in return and then go and share his gifts with others.  Not just with people like us, but with people from all over the world, from shepherds to wise men, from the East and to the West, from the North to the South, God calls us all, some will hear, some will feel threatened and want to take matters into their own hands.  But unless they are given the opportunity they will never know. 

Let’s take the light of Christ into the world this year, let’s place it on a lamp-stand and not hide it under a bushel.  The light of Christ has come into the world, so that we might receive salvation, rejoice with him, worship him, and give him thanks.