Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Linglestown, Pennsylvania, USA
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise me 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.
There has never been serious debate amongst Christian theologians about why Matthew included the report of the Magi in his Gospel. The target audience for Matthew’s record of Jesus was the Jewish community which had anticipated a Messiah. Matthew wanted them to know that Jesus had come for ALL people, the Jews and the non-Jews (the Gentiles). This was a very important message to the earliest Christians who were primarily Jewish. They needed to recognize that Jesus was NOT exclusively “their” Messiah; Jesus came for all people.
The Christian Church quickly realized the implications to the affirmation that Jesus came for all people. This affirmation became the foundation for the Christian missionary movement as early as the first century. Christians recognized that Jesus was not their Messiah to have; he was their Messiah to share.
Through the centuries, Christians have repeatedly needed to be reminded of Matthew’s intent. It is far more comfortable to romanticize the trip of the Magi than to hear in Matthew’s report that we have a message and a Messiah we are expected to share. We share both by enabling people to be missionaries to other countries, and, by each of us being a messenger to the people we encounter.
The Magi were searching; people today are searching. As I have slowed down enough in life to be an observer to what is happening around me I find people of every age with a deep hunger for something more in life than what they currently have. People are frustrated with shallow relationships that may have exciting elements but simply have no substance to them. People are disappointed that the accumulation of things leaves them with a haunting feeling that they have nothing. There are numerous expressions of the haunting, disquieting hunger people have.
Over sixteen hundred years ago, St. Augustine wrote, For thou hast created us for thyself, and our heart cannot be quieted till it may find repose in thee. The Christian Church very boldly affirms that the primal hunger that finds so many expressions is essentially a hunger to be close to, and, to be at peace with God. We were created for that relationship with God, and until we are in that relationship there is a hunger for that completeness.
The Magi symbolize our hungry world in search of meaning, purpose and fulfillment. They symbolize a world in search of a relationship with God whether or not they recognize that such a search is their hunger.
Our role is to reach out and not to condemn, berate, or distance ourselves from them. While God reveals himself in many ways, we believe that the clearest revelation of God is found in God’s Word. Just as it was their reading of the Hebrew Bible that enabled the Magi to take that final step to find the baby Jesus, in like manner it is the Bible that brings us to the clearest understanding of God. This does not mean that God leaves everyone else in total darkness. God finds ways of showing himself to all people. But, as Christians we believe that the richest insights come when the person reaches God as revealed in Christ Jesus.
What does all this mean for us?
(1) If you sense a horrendous restlessness in your life, you may still be searching for the relationship with God which he intended for you even if you are baptized and even if you are an active member of a congregation. You are in the family of God, but you have not connected with God in a way that brings you the peace for which your soul hungers. If that describes you, seek out a Christian mentor as the Magi sought out help. God wants your heart, mind and soul to be at rest in him.
(2) If you know or love someone who is caught up in chasing a star you believe will lead them nowhere, do not condemn and do not give up. You cannot make them ask you for direction in their search, but you can maintain a relationship; you can strive to live as an example of God's love until the time comes, and they want someone who has not deserted them to show the way.
Eternal God, we thank and praise you for wanting all people to be part of your family. As the star guided the Magi to Jesus, help us to be one of your means of reaching more people with the depth and richness of your love and being. Amen
-- Pastor Mueller