We Have Come to Adore: Reflections on the Magi from The Advent Story
The celebration of Epiphany, or the coming of the Magi, to the Christ Child is a beautiful example of God’s wonder. Kings, or astronomers, or wise men – they are known by many names – come to Judea following the course of a star. We do not know much about them from the gospels except that these men were foreigners. They were Jewish and yet came seeking a Jewish king. They knew they sought a child. They came not expecting a grown man in the prime of life. When they find the child in a lowly setting they are not deterred. They still kneel before the little one and recognize him as a prophesied Messiah. They offer him costly and beautiful gifts. They worship him.
We learn more about these Magi from Cora Evan’s mystical experiences. Some of what she heard and saw of the Magi have been compiled into The Advent Story: the Faith Journey of the Magi which is an excellent companion for the Advent and Christmas season. What more do we learn about the Magi from Cora Evans’s visions? That they sought the truth above all, that they were patient, and that they never lost their sense of wonder, all things we can learn a lot from at the beginning of this new year.
Cora shows these wisemen as indeed coming from the far East. They believed in the Jewish religion though they were not of Jewish descent. But in their study of the stars, of the philosophers, and of the various religions, they had come to recognize the God of Israel as the true God. Six, not only three, kings would convene regularly in the desert to discuss the various prophecies of the Jewish Messiah and to seek to understand more together. They were at one of these desert meetings when the sky became ablaze with the light of a special star.
The horizon was ablaze with unearthly light….Then the great King shouted, “This is the New Jerusalem! This is the City of God! Let us bow down…we have seen his Light! Ah Light of God in the City. The City is His Mother. He is born as a Child and has need of a Mother. He is the Light of the World. He is in that City. We must seek the Messiah.” The greatest King bowed his head in adoration. The Kings wept tears of joy. At this moment the old world was desiccate. The new was in its exalted sanctity.
The kings are ready to go to any lengths to seek the Truth. In fact, they are so ready to live and die for the truth that three of the original six kings recognize their unworthiness to come before the Messiah and thus do not ultimately complete the journey to Judea. In their humility, they recognize doubt and weakness within themselves and do not dare to come before the Lord unprepared to meet Him. Do we, like the kings, actually seek the truth above anything else? Are we willing to forsake family, traditions, and the expectations of others in order to seek or defend the truth? May we have the courage to place desire to abide by the Truth above all things.
After seeing the brilliant star in the sky and thanking God for this sign of the birth of the Messiah, the kings prepare to seek him. They journey for a year, following the prompting and timing of the Lord. They travel with a large caravan of slaves and animals so travel is slow. They only move when they receive some kind of sign. Then, they are asked to stay put for an entire second year.
In the greatest King’s tent an angel appeared telling him, ”Stay here at this oasis for one year and teach, and teach, and teach. Teach your slaves the prophesies. I will send scribes to your tent. They will bring scrolls you have never seen. All must meditate, pray, fast, and stamp out superstition.” The angel was gone. The King was stunned. Then he realized he had not given his slaves a fair chance. He was their master and therefore his teacher. Then the power of truth with kindness and love would change the world. He resolved to stay and preach and teach.
After a year of travel and waiting and seeking, the kings wait another year before advancing towards Jerusalem. They spend this time teaching the prophecies of the Messiah to their slaves. They spend this time meticulously and lovingly sharing the truth with these uneducated people in their care. God not only wanted these great kings to know and worship him, but these far-flung peoples among them the young and the old, to know, love, and serve him. The kings did not complain of this delay but accepted with patience and understanding that God desires all people to know him. How can we be patient with the Lord’s plans for us? Does he always find us so willing to abandon our own plans for his own? How can we be more patient with those who are vulnerable or in our care? May we grow in patience this year as the plans of the Lord unfold in our lives.
After two years of following the star and seeking only to do what the Lord asked of them, the three kings with their retinue find the Christ Child. Two years after his birth, the Holy Family is no longer in a stable in Bethlehem but in a quiet home on the outskirts of Bethany. The three kings approach Joseph, who is hesitant to welcome the visitors and all their splendor to their hidden life. He is reticent because he knows these foreigners also come from peoples who mix truth with cultish superstition and does not want to expose Jesus and Mary to superstitious worship. But the kings display their earnestness:
“The Messiah is for everyone. We have traveled far to embrace his feet. We have come to adore and not to harm.”
God is at work, and Joseph leads the three kings to see Mother Mary and the precocious two-year-old Messiah where the three who have come so far to behold the Messiah are speechless in the presence of the holy Child.
The great Magus* is humbled, his great learning was as nothing. He could not find a way of conversation with one so young….Jesus whispered, “Lift Me up into arms.” Lifting Him, the great Magus said, “How jeweled can one from the East become?” His heart received the message as if he were in ecstasy, seeing this little Child as True Man. The great Magus understood.
*Cora switches from calling the three kings to calling them Magi (Magus in the singular) at the behest of Christ, who said this title indicated their greatness and elevation of status in coming to him.
They great thing they discovered was in the truly wonder-ful thing: that God had become man and was truly man! The Christ Child laughed and ran and played and petted the puppies brought to him by the slaves of the Kings. The magi did not lose their wonder in watching him act as a normal child, but rather their wonder was increased by it. This was the path chosen by God to redeem man. He came into a normal family to live a (relatively) normal life to ultimately die and rise again for the redemption of the world. What great wonder! Do we, too, remember how truly wonderful and miraculous this is? May we never forget the true wonder of the choice God made to become man that we might not only be saved from our sins, but that we might have access to life eternal by becoming his own children.