There are more magi in the world than we realize: as many as the stars that filled the sky when the most famous ones traveled for days on end long ago. We still don’t know exactly what they were: these magi. Were they kings, astrologers, astronomers, wisdom teachers, or none of the above? But the truth is, that really doesn’t matter. Instead, it’s that they were searching for God as if their life depended on it, as if they weren’t fully “alive” just yet, as if their soul wasn’t quite satisfied. There are more magi in the world than we realize, as many as the stars that fill the sky. They are out there, but do we really care?
You see, in the church, we have come to think that we have this Jesus peacefully and beautifully stored inside our own walls, as peacefully and beautifully as He was in that manger stall over two thousand years ago. We are the shepherds who are already at that manger scene worshiping this Savior of ours with angelic hymns, and we have been here for centuries upon centuries through all the generations who have come before us. But evidently this God isn’t quite satisfied either. God wants to bring in more people to witness what this Savior of the world is up to in redeeming the entire Creation. God doesn’t just want those near to us, but those far, far away.
Now we in the church have come around to accepting that this God is indeed the God of the whole world, the God Who loves the whole world, including the magi far, far away. However, if they’re gonna come, they better get here on their own, and they better get here quick, because we are tired of waiting. We are tired of waiting for these so-called “magi” to come to grips with the reality that this God is indeed great and so deserves our worship and our service and even our wealth. And yes, these so-called “magi” better come to our own manger stall, our own church where we have this Jesus peacefully and beautifully stored to worship with all that we have to give. If there are so many of these magi near and far away, what in the world is taking them so long to get here?
But of course, the pressure and the guilt and the shame is not going to make them get here any faster. And the real power behind this Gospel, this Good News, is that this Jesus, so peacefully and beautifully stored no where at all, is instead, Emmanuel: God alive and well with us, with all of us, wherever we are in this life and beyond. The irony behind the magi’s journey long ago to find the child “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” is that God was with them all along. They didn’t have to come to the manger to find God; God had already found them.
Now that isn’t to say there isn’t something special about the manger and even the church. Jesus still does show up here, to be sure, as He did in that little town of Bethlehem. It’s just that He didn’t stay there, and He doesn’t stay here either. He doesn’t stay inside any church, no matter how much we may cherish the place with all the memories and warmth we feel. This is the God of the whole world, after all. This is the God Who loves the whole world, including the as-many-magi-as-the-stars, who are still searching for Jesus as if their life depends on it. So, what are we to do as the church? Are we still supposed to some way help the magi get here; just in a kinder, gentler fashion than we have in the past? Or are we just to let them be, and let God take care of it?
There, of course, was that star that shined brighter than all the others that night long ago for the magi to end up finding that little town of Bethlehem. There, of course, was a candle that was lit at our baptism, as a reminder for our light to shine before others to glorify God; to glorify this God Who loves us all: shepherds, carpenters, unwed mothers, magi and everyone else in between; to glorify this God Who remains with us each and every step of the way, wherever our journey may take us, even if it isn’t to a manger stall or a church sanctuary.
The light shining within us is not meant to glorify ourselves or even the manger or the church. The Holy Spirit continues to shine within and through us to glorify God, and even to make us aware of the reality that God can and does work beyond us. After all, the magi provide their own powerful witness in the story. They are overwhelmed with joy at knowing they had found God at work in their world, and they cannot contain that joy to the point of falling on their knees in adoring this precious child. In their own way, they make us realize what we often take for granted about this awe-inspiring God Who continues to impact lives beyond our recognition. Yes, there are plenty of magi still in the world, still on their own journey of finding God at work. And so we join them as sisters and brothers in Christ on a journey of a lifetime, on a journey that will take us beyond the darkness of death into the light of everlasting life. And for that hope that that child brought to all of us, we most certainly give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon