Matthew 2:1-12 NIVUK
‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: ‘ “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”’ Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.’
It is Epiphany. We remember every January how wonderful it is that a band of gentiles from a distant place would make a long and probably somewhat dangerous journey to an obscure town in an obscure country in the Roman Empire in order to lavish gifts on an illegitimate peasant child. The story of the visiting Magi might have been more believable if they had been Jewish wise men, but God doesn’t do things to be believable – His concern is with miracles, and His volunteers are the people who will humble themselves, not necessarily the ones who proclaim to love Him the most.
These men, sometimes mistaken for kings, brought very impressive gifts. No doubt the journey was expensive to take, too. They had an audience with King Herod when they were on their way; these were Very Important People. It’s also worth noting that they must have thought they were traveling to a palace, visiting a little child whose bed might have jewels set into it, whose mother might have gold rings on her fingers.
When they arrived at little Yeshua’s bedside and met his parents, who were so poor that they had to offer pigeons for their sacrifice at his birth rather than a lamb, perhaps they were disappointed – maybe they felt cheated or let down or mislead. But what did they do? They knelt before him and offered their gifts.
It is so easy sometimes to measure how much we give against how much we will get in return. As the new year comes in and we look forward to renewing our commitment to God at our Covenant Services, let’s hold in our minds how impoverished we really are, and how generous God is in His gifts.
We bring our meagre gifts before You.
Perhaps we have only our empty hands to raise,
Or maybe we have practical or material thing to dedicate to You.
Everything that we have to offer was given to us by Your love and grace.
Since You showed us the beauty of wealth laid at the feet of the poor,
Let us follow your example and show humble joy in giving and in receiving.
Without judging how our gifts will be taken or counting how much we can afford to part with,
Let us lay everything we have in the empty hands of those who can give nothing back,
And so reveal to the world what true riches really are, and where they are stored.
Madeleine Reed – Helen Kim Memorial Scholar