Lectionary Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
This is the time traditionally set aside to remember the arrival of the Wise Men who came to worship Jesus. They come with many descriptions: Wise Men is great for Christmas cards; Kings works for singing carols; Astrologers is closer but still doesn’t quite get to it. The best is likely Magi which is the plural of the Greek word magoi, for the Persian sect closely associated with Zoroastrianism. Their task was a very scientific one at the time which was to study the sky and ancient writings in order to unearth knowledge. They obviously discovered something of such interest that it caused them to organize a voyage to Israel to find, in their words, the ‘king of the Jews’.
They logically go to King Herod, the Jewish ruler in the region who was employed by the Romans, and enquire innocently where they can find the king of the Jews. Herod brings his scholars together and they pull up the Old Testament prophecies directing them to Bethlehem. Jesus would have been a couple years old before this caravan of Magi arrives in his home with their gifts. Matthew 2 relates this interesting story and both the joy and darkness enfolded in it.
Fast forward now a few years ahead to Saint Paul’s writings in Ephesians as he reflects on Jesus.
When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles . . . assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles. As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.
And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.
Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.
God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
– Ephesians 3:1-12 (NLT)
In the story of Jesus there are layers of stark reminders that he has come to earth for everyone: Jews, Gentiles, nationalities, races, tribes, classes, sexes, abilities are equally part of the kingdom. Poor teenagers give birth to a baby and are visited by dirty Jewish shepherds and Zoroastrian star-watchers. All through the biography of Jesus we see him in the company of women, Samaritans, lepers, tax collectors, soldiers, terrorists, slaves and the like. Literally equal. Literally equally loved. Literally.
Cheryl and I are currently binge-watching (during our illness) A Place To Call Home, a drama series about life surrounding an aristocratic English family living in the countryside of Australia in the mid 1950s. One of the many themes is the distance between classes, nationalities and politics that were prevalent in post-war thought. (Plus really cool cars from the period.) I have been struck by the ignorance of those biases but also reminded that we have not evolved much further today.
We are especially adept at seeing unfairness in others but very unskilled at seeing it in ourselves.
In the above reading we find Paul, previously a militant Jew, now becoming the voice of Jesus to those who are not. The mystery of all this is that we are called to love recklessly in order to bring a surprising peace out of the chaos of inequality.
When we diminish someone based on our view of them, we ignore their story and experiences and worse, we ignore that they are in the image of God.
It will take some clear, honest thought but where are the inequalities in how you view others?
Who do you view with a prejudiced filter?
Look around: every person you see is loved and died for by God.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
– Saint Francis