The adoration of the Magi.

Very different from the simple shepherds were the wise men who came from three different parts of the globe, a long journey that must have taken them well over a year. They were serious scholars who studied the heavens and the movement of the heavenly bodies. They were both astronomers and astrologers, and we have not seen their like since astronomy and astrology were separated many centuries ago.

The wise men were wise men indeed, men of great intellectual sophistication; but each one saw the birth of an unknown child as an event of unprecedented proportions, and each one left home to make the long trip to Judea because of what he had read in the movement of the planets and the stars. They understood the birth of a single child could affect the entire universe, just as physicists today understand that all of creation is a single organism. Nothing happens in isolation. The crying of a baby sends sound waves to galaxies thousands of light years away.

So these ancient astronomers believed that something was happening in Bethlehem that would change the world . . . The wonder of the Incarnation can only be accepted with awe. Jesus was wholly human, and Jesus was wholly divine. This is something that has baffled philosophers and theologians for two thousand years. Like love, it cannot be explained, it can only be rejoiced in. Did the wise men understand this Glorious Impossible? Perhaps they came close. They left gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; and being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their homes by another way. -Madeleine L’Engle

I have stayed away from poems and passages about the Magi because, really, that’s supposed to come after Christmas. But I found this one so moving, I had to include it. My apologies to those of you who think I should have waited until Epiphany. I just love the sentence, “[T]hese ancient astronomers believed that something was happening in Bethlehem that would change the world.” How did they respond? They traveled on a long journey to find out what was happening.

I also believe that something happened in Bethlehem that changed the world. I even have the benefit of knowing how the story ends. (Well, not the very end of the story, but at least the end of the chapter of Jesus’ life on earth.) I believe that the birth of that child did affect the whole universe, that it was an event of unprecedented proportions, that it was an act of love that cannot be explained or completely understood. It is a cliche at this point, to say that, after encountering Jesus, we are unable to go back the way that we came. But if I were to travel this world as those wise men made their journey–with a purpose, with faith–how would the people around me be affected?

And how can I possibly live as if the birth and life and death of Jesus hasn’t made a difference when it was an act of love that changed the course of this world? The creator of all the universe entered this world as a helpless baby. What gifts have I to offer him?

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *