Have you ever been driving on a unfamiliar road and thought that maybe there was a shortcut or faster route? I tend to subscribe to “all road lead to Rome, or wherever I’m headed”. There’s one great story where Selina and I were heading to Nova Scotia to visit her family for Thanksgiving last year. And if any of you have made the trip out East before, you’ll know that once you get through Montreal, it’s a pretty boring drive along the trans Canada. Having made this drive once before I decided to find a better route, or “the scenic route” as I told Selina. So we’re clipping along the highway in Northern Quebec, heading to Edmonton for some lunch before continuing on to Halifax, and I pop off to the highway into New Brunswick, before the TransCanada was built. It was a nice country road, no traffic and a straight shot to Edmunston. Eventually we make our way to a road sign that states welcome to Clare New Brunswick. This is a small town just across the river from Edmunston, so I’m not too worried. And like any sensible person on a road trip, I plan on having lunch at McDonalds. So I type into the GPS “McDonalds” Assuming that I will be guided quickly over to Edmunston for lunch. Next thing I know, I’m crossing a bridge that says “Welcome to The United States” Needless to say, after much confusion, we finally made it to our destination, later than we anticipated, but we made it.
I love taking shortcuts. Though I know it is way easier to just stick with the road that guarantees me to arrive at my destination, I tend take detours along the way. Maybe it’s a guy thing. I don’t know. But, isn’t funny that when we are on our way somewhere and we stray from the beaten path, we still usually tend to find our way to our intended destination, usually hours, days, or often even years later. I think that often our walk with God is like that. I look back on the times I wasn’t following God, or even intentionally ignoring Him. Yet, by His grace He guided me back to Him, often without me even knowing it.
My work here with young people gives me the opportunity to meet a lot of new people especially on campus at the different universities. When I meet new people I’m always curious on whether or not they’re religious. You can never tell. Often the people I think couldn’t possibly be religious end up surprising me with their dedication to whichever faith they may subscribe. I cherish every opportunity I get to talk to new Christians, the fresh ones. The ones that are so excited about their new found faith that no matter what your talking about, the conversation is always going to find its way back to talking about God. As awesome as this is, I’m a little jealous of them. I find myself getting a little angry at the fact that I worked hard for my faith, I spent my entire life running to God and then running away from God; day in and day out. Yet these people just found God and just hopped right in at the level I’m at. It’s a horrible way to feel. But, it’s the truth, and I suspect I’m not alone in feeling this way.
I was doing some reading on the wise men this week and I’m curious about what happened to the wise men after they saw Jesus. We just get a tiny snippet of the beginning of something huge in their lives. What happened in their hearts when they finally laid eyes on Jesus; the one that they had spent so long looking for? What happened when they returned home to their friends and families? What did they tell them? Did they tell them?
The name “Magi” comes from the Greek word “Magos” and “Magos” is derived from an old Persian word “Magupati” This was the title given to priests in a religion called: Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrians are what we now call astrologers; star gazers. The stars were believed to be the gateway to understanding. Understand the stars, and you’ll understand the universe and the meaning of life. And no its not 42… The Magi’s religion was the stars. And in Zoroastrianism, each star is associated with a person. And when the star that would lead to Bethlehem rose, that particular kind of star only rose for Kings, so the Magi knew something big was about to going down. I don’t know if they knew much more than that. They may have known of the prophecies of the Old Testament proclaiming: “A star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17) But, that would have only further stressed the importance of this particular star and the urgency that they find out where it lead. And word spread quickly about this group of men following a star.
And when King Herrod learned of the birth of a new king, he quickly summoned the wise men and ordered them that once they had found the child to return to him with the baby’s location so that he could go worship him. But, the notion of a current king going to worship the next king is a little far fetched. Herrod had other plans. Jesus was a threat. Which is why the Magi, like Joseph only a few weeks earlier, had a dream warning them not to return to Herrod and disclose the location of the newborn king.
When they finally arrived in Bethlehem, They found Jesus and His mother Mary in house. And upon entering they presented Him with gifts and worshiped Him. I can’t imagine what was going through their heads. Did they know who this was? This wasn’t just a king. It was THE KING. We don’t get too much insight into what happened to the Magi after encountering Christ. So do you think what happened in their hearts when they finally laid eyes on him; the one that they had spent so long looking for? What happened when they returned home to their friends and families? What did they tell them? Did they tell them?
Journeys change people; whether short or long. I think that when the Magi returned home everyone would have asked, “Did you find what you were looking for?” It was no secret that they left in search for a king. I can’t help but be certain that their response was more extravagant and excited than a simple “yes”. I wonder what happened to them. Did they renounce Zoroastrianism and begin following Christ? Probably not. Jesus didn’t even have a ministry yet. But, did they ever understand what they had witnessed in Bethlehem? And did it change them?
In Ephesians we read that: By God’s power and grace, both Gentiles and Jews who believe in the good news are a part of the same body that will share in God’s promise, because they belong to Christ. The wise men were gentiles. But, they were welcomed to the table, not because they knew what to say, pray, or do. But, because they followed the glimmer of hope in the sky to a place where the Kingdom of Heaven had come to Earth.
In this way Matthews epiphany story gives important insight to the church’s call to evangelism. It raises the possibility that there is not one way to arrive at Christ, but many. It demonstrates that the possibility exists that all roads have off ramps that lead towards Christ, whether those taking the exits realize it or not. This is part of the hope that Christ brought with Him into the world. You don’t need to have life’s ultimate questions figured out before coming to faith in Jesus. Heck you don’t even have to know how to pray, what liturgy is, or whether or not you can take communion. The longing of those who do not fully know what they seek were met in the act of God at Bethlehem. God seeks us out where we are at; all we need to do is open our eyes. God’s promise of blessing is waiting for you.
In what unexpected places have you found God in your journey? And what did you learn about God as a result?