Lessons from the Magi

Having considered lessons from the shepherds as the first visitors to Jesus, we now turn to the magi, who arrived in Bethlehem a few weeks later in an event the Church celebrates as Epiphany. The magi, historically known as Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior, came from Persia, Syria, Arabia, or some combination of them. They were not Jewish and had little understanding of the Messianic prophesies.

But they were open to the guidance of God, who spoke to them through a mysterious light. When they came to Jerusalem, they understandably expected the people there to be celebrating their new born savior king. But instead they found indifference by many people and the deceitful plotting of King Herod, who was afraid of his own savior, seeing only a threat to his power. But when the magi came to Bethlehem, Mary joyfully welcomed these unlikely visitors. Apparently Joseph was initially away working to support the Family, but would join them soon.

The magi offered to Jesus and His family their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And then, after celebrating their time with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, they returned home as the first missionaries to far off lands.

We can take lessons from this event both from the perspective of the magi and from the perspective of Mary. Like the magi, we also come into the presence of Christ, welcomed by Mary. And she helps us offer our gifts to her Son in a worthy fashion. Gold was a practical gift and one fit for a king; it reflects our reverence for Jesus as king and the offering of practical gifts for Him and the family of God. Frankincense was a fine material used in worship; it reflects our offering of prayers and lives of holiness. And myrrh was for healing injuries and anointing corpses, including its use at Jesus’ burial.

It was a strange gift for a baby, but it reflects the wisdom that we must offer, with Jesus and Mary, sacrifices and struggles as a part of our journey to heaven. And, with Jesus and Mary, we should also be willing to welcome people who, like the magi, are unexpected, knowing that God likes to work in surprising ways. This humble offering of our lives to Christ, and our recognition of the gifts that others offer to us and God’s people, helps us make the glory of Epiphany present in the world today as the Church on earth strives to be a first promise of the gathering of all nations, under our king Jesus and mother Mary, in the realms of eternal light.