December 31, 2019
Scripture Matthew 2:13-23
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Matthew 2:11-12 NRSV
Matthew is a gospel with a certain audience in mind: The Jewish people who are still awaiting a Messiah along with those who understand Jesus of Nazareth as someone quite different from any experience they previously had of a religious leader. In keeping with this, the writer places the new Holy Family in settings that reflect that Jewish heritage. The path of flight into Egypt and the return to Palestine are a retelling of the story of Moses and the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus.
Central to the verses above, however, is the emphasis on foreign persons, those outside of Judaism and the Jewish religion, coming to Bethlehem to honor the newly born Son of God. The Magi, as we term them today, were Gentiles who came from lands to the east. This report serves as a demonstration of the far-reaching power of God over other people and other lands outside of the early church and the Jewish faithful who had joined them. Truly, the Gentiles are subject to God’s influence and, therefore, God’s will. So, if you and your ancestors are like most of us without any Jewish heritage, Matthew has provided us, as true Gentiles, the opportunity to belong to God’s kingdom through Jesus Christ.
This is one of the reasons the church has honored the time after Christmas, to allow us to reflect on the magnitude of this event, the birth of Christ, the Son of God. And, as we approach Epiphany, the Twelfth Day of Christmas on January 6th, we can celebrate with the Magi and, like them, adore and worship the King of Kings.