2 January 2022 at Saint Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL
Isaiah 60, 1-6 + Psalm 72 + Ephesians 3, 2-3, 5-6 + Matthew 2, 1-12
Matthew is the only Gospel writer to report on these visitors who take center stage today. So, we know nothing about them other than that they came from the east. For that matter, they have come from Miami! What the “east mean” and is it really important to know? Were there only three? It doesn’t seem to be a safe way to travel if they came from afar. There had to have been a whole caravan to support and protect them coming from the east, which in fact is a rather desolate place, east of Israel. In the Gospel, they don’t even have names. Those we use came into tradition a long time later.
What we can learn from Matthew comes from the contrast he draws between the Gentile and Jewish worlds. Those Jewish scholars of the law knew exactly what this was all about five miles away, and they did nothing while those Gentile visitors were willing to risk a lot to follow the light. Those scholars were content to sit in darkness. They could not be bothered. There travelers were not “kings” no matter what John Henry Hopkins Jr may have chosen to call them in 1868 when he composed that hymn. He was more musician than theologian.
Sometimes when we don’t know something, we have to make up something to cover up our lack of knowledge. If we peal back all of that stuff and simply stand back and look at what Matthew tells us, we can hardly miss the fact that these travelers had a goal and they were willing to leave home, risk some danger, make mistakes like going to Jerusalem in search of a king thinking that this new king might be found in places of power. They had goal, and Matthew tells us about them because of it.
As the Gospel unfolds, it will reveal a Jesus with a goal, and inspire those who believe in him to share that goal. As we know too well, goals make a difference in life. People without them always want more. When that is not enough, they want better, and when better is not enough, they want different. When different is not enough they become sad, their life becomes meaningless, and they become alienated. All the while, what they need is a goal.
Those magi came because God called them to seek the “King of the Jews”, and so are we.
They found a baby. We find man or a cross with a sign above his head. If we are going to see a King on that wooden throne, we will have to get our goals figured out. We’ll have to have a goal that gives meaning to life and have the human qualities it takes to stay with that goal through thick and thin. Our goal has to have meaning, purpose, and commitment; all of which are in separable. A busy life might have a purpose, but it does not necessarily have meaning. In Shakespeare’s words, that kind of life is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” One goal and one source of meaning, purpose, and commitment in our lives would be to make every day an Epiphany, a day of showing the world that the Lord has come, and there is a light in the darkness.