Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 8 January 2012
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Ephesians 2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
The story of the magi journeying to Bethlehem is a fitting image to reflect on near the beginning of our own journeys into 2012. They are astrologers who know the stars, but this star is different. They know something of its meaning – ‘the newborn king of the Jews’ – but it doesn’t lead exactly where they thought it would, and the king they find is not the king they were expecting. They journey to Jerusalem, sure that they will find him there. But the prophet’s words direct them elsewhere, to little Bethlehem, and the star takes them to their destination. The restful, worshipful space around the child where they give their gifts is surrounded by great evil and danger, a light within deep darkness; Herod has tried to deceive them into revealing the whereabouts of the child so that he can destroy this challenge to his power. But the magi listen to the wisdom in their dreams, and do not return via Jerusalem, evading the trap Herod has set for them. Their journey does not end in Bethlehem, but they return home carrying this new light in their hearts, with all the promise and challenge and disruption to their old life which that entails.
The presence of the three magi in the Christmas tableau is a striking reminder of the mystery of which Paul speaks – ‘that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel’. The outsiders have been brought into the circle of light around the Christ child. The barriers that separate ‘us’ and ‘them’ have been removed. Membership of the people of God is open to everyone.