Isaiah 60 1-6
The Magi may be the characters in the story of Christmas who receive little attention other than their colorful addition to the children’s pageant and nativity scene, yet they have one day in the Christian calendar all to themselves, Epiphany. Counting 12 days after Christmas, Epiphany was yesterday, but we often observe it on the closest Sunday. This day was set aside because it marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas and reflects on God’s revelation that Jesus is the light of the world, coming to save all nations.
We know very little about these journey-taking persons. The information we do have comes from this passage in Matthew, the only gospel to share that they even traveled to see Jesus.
From his account, we know some “magi” journeyed to Jerusalem “from the east” seeking the child who was born king of the Jews. We often refer to them as Kings and portray them with crowns and royal garments. Yet, The term “magi” originally meant a member of the tribe of the Magoi, and then became synonymous with a group of Persian priests with special powers to interpret dreams and read the stars for signs. Our modern term “magic” is a derivative of “magi.” These “magi” who show up at Herod’s doorstep could hardly be more strange and foreign to the Jewish messianic tradition. They are the ultimate “outsiders” in this story. In fact, some of this group of priests were women, so those who followed may have been both men and women, all of whom were gentiles seeking the light of the nations.
Christian tradition sees in the Magi the first among the Gentiles to see Jesus; they lead in showing all the peoples of the earth that this child born under the “star” is important to everyone, and because of that, the Epiphany is an affirmation of salvation available to all.
We say there were three because there were three gifts named, but many more could have made the journey.
Tradition looks at the gifts as symbols of who Jesus was: gold, a symbol of his royalty, frankincense a symbol of his divinity, and myrrh, a burial spice, a symbol of his suffering but Matthew does not specify those reasons for these particular gifts.
We know they brought gifts of immense value; gifts that were precious to themselves. They so adored the Lord, they were willing to give up something they adored to worship Him.
We know they left for their own country by another road, because they were warned that going back to King Herod was not a good idea.
After seeing Jesus for themselves, kneeling before him, not only was their route home changed, they were changed. Nothing was the same and they found themselves going another way.
These travelers had followed a light. Their risky, probably to some looking on, foolish journey, didn’t just happen one night as they gazed up at the sky and saw a unique star. They knew there would be a star signifying the birth of the King of the Jews. There is evidence they read and studied, listened to the voice of God; that they looked beyond themselves and the limited focus we sometimes get in our own small part of the world.
The differences between the rural Jewish family and the urbane, educated, cosmopolitan magi were ridiculously huge. And yet they came together as one in the presence of Jesus.
Maybe we really do know a lot about these Magi from the East. Maybe in their story we can see ways we can come to see the Christ-child anew in the weeks and months ahead. How we can experience God in our lives in ways that take us places and introduce us to people we haven’t met yet, or with whom we are acquainted but haven’t really gotten to know.
Following their example we need to Rise up.
Rise Up to study more so we are prepared to notice the stars that God sends us to lead us. These magi looking at the star charts and reading the religious and political papers of the day, find Jesus, while Herod’s Bible scholars miss the Messiah completely.
Rise Up to set aside quiet time for prayer, talking and listening, each day that we may hear God guiding us to the best paths to serve God and our neighbor.
Rise Up to risk surrendering more of what makes us comfortable, our power, our time, or stuff, to follow where God is leading.
Rise Up to recognize the light of Jesus shining through others, as well as the ways the light of Jesus can increasingly shine through each of us.
Rise Up to realize that sometimes others will think we are foolish, that we aren’t really making a difference, and there is still more darkness in the world than we can possibly illuminate; to realize we are not called to be the light to everyone, to eliminate all the darkness in the world. The glory of the Lord has that handled. We are to light the corners of darkness God calls us to light.
As Isaiah calls to us, we can Arise, Shine, knowing our light has come. Knowing that as we reflect the light others will be drawn to it. That the light is brighter in community. Remember the brightness of our candles as we joined together Christmas Eve. A community reflecting the Christ-child in all it says and does brings light and hope to all those who see it.
The Star still leads us if we watch for where it shines. By its light we see a humble child, born in poor circumstances to ordinary people in an obscure, oppressed nation, a child with all true authority who rightly rules in our lives and our world. His authority showed by gifts fit for a king, his power in his self-giving love.
By its light we are led to new places and new ways in which to shine this love which came down at Christmas. Let’s look for ways to Rise Up, hear God’s voice, and Shine.
 Dr. Leonard Sweet Plough Sunday Preachthestory.com