The story of the Magi in Matthew is one of those stories that can engender thought, reflection and questions. They were clearly people come from the east (probably modern-day Iraq) with a purpose to follow a star, find a king and offer homage to that king. Jesus would have been a toddler (sorry if this messes with our Christmas traditions and manger scenes). The story can be taken in many directions, but today I want to suggest some present-day advice from these "wise" travelers.
The first word that comes to mind is discernment. It is a trait that is a sparse commodity in a world led by fads, factless statements and hyperbole. In Matthew's story of the Magi, our travelers meet Herod, religious leaders and probably other people, all full of advice. Herod is powerful, so maybe they should listen to him? The religious leaders seem to know the Scripture, so maybe they are telling the truth? I am sure convincing and charismatic people would have given them advice. After all, they seem to be people of means and importance. So, who do they believe? The Magi chose to believe the Scriptures and the star. They press on, following those things till the reach the child, the mother and their goal.
The second word that comes to mind is ... deceit. They knew that many of the people they met would have reason to deceive them. The Magi had money, importance, influence and information. Other people wanted those things. The Magi knew this and were wise in how they dealt with the people they encountered. In our world today I see lots of deceit. People want you to follow them and promote their agenda. Conservatives, liberals, charismatic sellers of prosperity theology and purveyors of negativity all seek your attention. Like social media, they want you to become users and conduits of their agenda that ultimately captures your attention. The Magi encountered these people, especially in the palace of Herod. They smiled, they sounded helpful, but they wanted something ... to stop the life, the work and the will of Jesus. They had a king, and they didn't need God's ordained Son, come to save the world.
We are told that the Holy Spirit will give us discernment that will guide us and lead us to see and avoid deceit. But we, as God's people, must decide about a third word ... direction. Wise men (and women) know that every day is a directional choice. When the Holy Spirit has helped us discern truth, when we have opened our eyes so that we can see the deceit around us and when we meet Jesus, "the way, the truth and life itself," do we stay the course and keep going in the same direction, or is our direction altered by that little boy of Bethlehem? The Magi went off in a different direction.
I have a friend who says he has solved his issue of following negativity. He has done this at least once a year. My advice ... let God change you and your direction. I met a woman whose "my way or the highway" attitude has damaged relationships and her witness. My advice ... let God change you and your direction. I see a nation that seems to be caught in a merry-go-round of solving issues in nasty, mean-spirited and predictable ways ... and the results seem to see us never solving the issues that we say are important. My advice ... let God change us and our direction!
If we really want to leave our most tenacious demons behind and have the newness of life promised by our faith and following of Jesus, see the deceit ... use the Spirit's discernment ... go off in the direction that has a star, and a real king, and a child of promise ... and a savior named Jesus. Randy