A reading from the gospel according to Matthew 2:1-12
1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,
2 saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:
6 And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
7 Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”
9 After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
11 and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
1. The first verse of our gospel reading speaks of magi from the east. “Magi” is the plural form of magus which refers to a sorcerer or a member of the priestly class in Persia which is the modern day country of Iran. Other versions of the bible mention wise men from the orient. The bible does not mention their number but people probably got the idea of three wise men from the fact that these visitors brought with them three gifts. However since King Herod became upset or nervous about their purpose, we can assume that their number is much more than three.
2. The visitors are described as wise because they knew how to interpret astronomical phenomena such as the rising of a star. When they saw the “Star of Bethlehem”, they associated it with the birth of a great king. That is why the gospel reading is called the epiphany because the birth of Jesus was manifested to the non-Jewish people or the gentiles.
3. Here is King Herod who tried his best to trick or deceive the magi into an agreement so he could know personally where to find the child Jesus. Yet God the Almighty guided the visitors and King Herod got the disappointment of his life. God knows better than any wise man or skillful king!
4. The visitors brought with them three gifts which consisted of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This must be the idea why gift giving during Christmas became a tradition. Yet it must be emphasized again and again especially to children that receiving gift during Christmas is not the central idea why we have Christmas although everyone can be encouraged to give gift to the needy.
5. Gold is considered the king of metals and it is also the metal of kings. The gift of gold to Jesus is an acknowledgement that He is the coming King. On the other hand, frankincense is a kind of oil used as incense and to some ancient people, it was a symbol of deity. Lastly, myrrh was used an embalming oil and therefore it is a symbol of death. Obviously, Matthew wanted his readers to have an idea of who Jesus is – the King who is the Son of God and who would die for our salvation.
6. The magi prostrated themselves and paid homage to Jesus. As Christmas season is about to end, may we pay homage to Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords not just during Christmas but every day of our life. What better gift to give Him than our very own selves as His wise men and women in a world who do not accept Him as King.