Ask Pastor Adrienne: Christmas renegades: The Magi
Q: Dear Pastor, The Magi who visited Jesus' birth were not Christians, yet they worshiped him. Why would they have done this?
A: Thank you for reminding me of that wonderful part of the Christmas story in the Book of Matthew; chapter two (verses 1-12.) There are many interesting and unusual facts surrounding those Magi ("wise men") that are worth delving into; your provoking question being one of them. They were not Christians, no. But, technically speaking, there were no Christians on the earth at that time at all. Jesus hadn't yet launched a movement called "Christianity" since he was still in diapers. (It would be about 30 years before the world labeled Jesus' followers after his name.) The Magi kneeled in worship because they were in the presence of the power of God, the most-high priest and the mightiest king. The experience may have buckled their knees.
These mysterious Magi, who are normally depicted in the Christmas story as the three wise men, were scientists, astrologers, mathematicians, alchemists, theologians and spiritual seekers of all walks of life. Most likely they would have fallen under the title "Chaldeans'' like the group who plagued the prophet Daniel in his book. Chaldeans are mentioned throughout the old and new testaments, however, and are not an insignificant faction - the caravan visiting Jesus would surely have included far more than three persons. Many of these nomadic eccentrics often sustained themselves as merchants, which is probably why they were in possession of rare and pricey items to present to The Savior upon their arrival (gold, frankincense and myrrh.) They bowed in Christ's presence because of their deeper understanding of the ancient prophecies regarding this special child. They knew he was the promised King of the Jews, Messiah and Savior of the world.
When the Magi were authorized by Herod to locate Jesus, Herod then commanded them, by royal edict, to return to his palace with information on the Christ-child. The Magi rejected this command and in essence, broke the law. They instead committed themselves to a higher law to protect the innocent and honor God. They left Jesus in the safety of his undisclosed location and sojourned back to their land by another route (Matthew 2:12.)
We have a lot to learn from them! During this strange, lock-down Christmas, we must observe their courage and take note of their actions as we seek to be law-abiding citizens - yet are most certainly called to a higher law ourselves. You see, that same anti-Christ spirit of King Herod is reaching into our faith community today. Governmental edicts and state ordinances have closed our churches. Thankfully, in late November, the Supreme Court struck down all attempts to criminalize church attendance in New York via their governor's unlawful COVID-restraints. This legal precedent has taken up the cause of Christians in our entire nation since churches are now free to gather and worship as a result. It is up to the pastors, priests and congregations to boldly trust God and get back to the cause for Christ. The Bible guides us: "Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer" (Hebrews 10:25, CEV.)
I've long admired the Magi in my private meditations. They were untouchable people since they traveled freely within diverse territories and kingdoms; making no allegiances or enemies; often seen as useful science teachers, healers, magicians and prophets as they passed through the various palaces and royal courts. They were entertaining, autonomous and played by their own rules. Perhaps the world sees Christians the same way? Let us break free of fear, bad laws and timidity. Let us give the world something to talk about.
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