You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
This Sunday we celebrate the coming of the Magi to the Christ-child. It’s a familiar story so the temptation is to gloss over it quickly and move on. Yet it is really a very strange story that only appears in St Matthew’s Gospel. Since the other Gospel writers do not include the story we do not know if the event was real or if St Matthew invented it to emphasis the kingship of the Messiah.
Anyway, what do we know about the Magi? We know they were astrologers, learned men who studied the stars and that they were not Jewish; they came from the east, probably Babylon which was the centre of excellence for the study of astrology in those days. Then the line between astrology and astronomy was blurred. Since stars are normally orderly, predictable in their course round the heavens any unusual activity in their movement would have been the cause of great interest. It was often thought to foretell an important event – like, for example, the birth of a king. They were obviously rich men who could afford to indulge their interest since they were granted an audience with King Herod who took their information seriously. Whilst tradition has it that there were just three Magi St Matthew does not give us a specific number. In any case, they would not have travelled alone but would have had a retinue of attendants, servants and etc to accompany them. Naturally they went to Jerusalem first to consult with King Herod since they were looking for the new born King of the Jews. He sent them to Bethlehem where the star led them to a house - not the stable in which Our Saviour was born as our Christmas cards illustrate.
Now, bear in mind two things. Joseph was a poor man, he did not have land or property to support his family, and so he worked with his hands as a carpenter. Thus he could not afford a grand mansion or perhaps even a proper house. Indeed, the Holy Family may well have lived in a cave since many poor people in Nazareth did just that. Yet St Matthew tells us that the Magi, rich important men that they were, found the right house and went in. More than that, they ‘fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.’ Matthew 2:11. Really expensive presents, fit for a king! How the Magi recognised the babe in this hovel as the Messiah for whom they had been searching is a question to be pondered but perhaps a more important question to ask is this:
When people come calling on you do they find Jesus?
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years