Tag Archives: Magi

25 December – Gifts for Jesus

Happy Christmas!

As you share gifts today and celebrate, remember the gifts brought by the wise men, and their meaning; gold for a king, incense for God, and myrrh for the healing that would be brought through Jesus’ suffering yet to come.

What will you bring to Jesus as a gift this Christmas? How will you know and serve him more fully as we travel together into the future with him?

May the peace of Christ be with you and those you love this Christmas.

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

24 December – Who do you ask?

Answers are easier to find than ever – for some questions, at least. With internet access we can search for any question and find answers. Of course, one problem is that we have to work out which answers are right, or at least best. More complicated, though, is that we have to work out who’s giving the answers – and what their agenda might be.

The Wise Men went to the obvious place to look for a King of Israel – the palace in Jerusalem. When they realised they were in the wrong place and asked for directions, the answer they got was correct – they needed to go to Bethlehem. But they had asked the wrong person, and Herod had his own agenda. His agenda was to make sure that he stayed in power, whatever he had to do to make it happen. And he didn’t have space in his plans for another king. What he did next is in Matthew 2:13-18.

In the last couple of years we’ve become aware of the dangers of our choosing where we get our information about the world, because we tend to go to people, websites and broadcasters who seem to agree with us. Then we forget that just because someone shares our bias, that doesn’t make them unbiased. We need to be careful who we go to for answers – they may be asking different questions from us, and the ‘right’ answer can lead to the wrong consequences.

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

19 December – A new star in the sky

In the city at night we only see a few of the stars. In ancient times, or now in deep countryside, there’s far more to see. We don’t have to give specific meanings to particular stars or planets to be affected by the beauty of stars in a clear, dark sky. They remind us of the majesty of Creation – and the greater majesty of the one who created it.

Would your journey to meet Jesus be richer for that sense of awe? Maybe the wise men were ready to move because they knew their place in the universe, and so were ready to act when they saw that the universe was changing around them!

Why not try this Christmas or New Year to head somewhere dark on a night with few clouds, and just absorb the brilliant glory of the night sky?

 

The animations in this series are by Jon Birch, and used by permission, but please don’t download them or post them elsewhere, as the copyright doesn’t allow that. Find out more at http://proost.co.uk/altadvent.

 

Blogging the Bible 243 – Matthew 1-2 – Ancient hope, new beginning

Today, with anticipation I open the New Testament after 242 readings from the Old, and – it’s a page of genealogy. Thanks.

Then I read it, and it makes a lot more sense than it has before that this comes as the first, off-putting page of the greatest book in history, the one I give to people when they’re ready to find out about God – the New Testament. Because now the names all ring loud and recent bells in my mind, as part of the story that I’ve just read. They make it clear that this book is not a new story, but follows on from what’s already been written; and that the key thing about that ancient story is that it has been worked out in human lives. God has not usually worked by heavenly decree, but through the ordinary and extraordinary people of the Old Testament. Their story has brought the world to this moment, where God enters the human story in person.

What’s particularly fascinating about Matthew’s genealogy is the inclusion of a few key women alongside the fathers and greatgrandfathers of Joseph. Rahab and Ruth, two Gentile women whose faith shines from the Old Testament, are mentioned by name. Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, isn’t given a name, but is ‘the wife of Uriah’ – for all of David’s greatness, his greatest sin is not hidden. Perhaps, too, we need to be reminded that the Messiah’s family tree doesn’t just include foreigners but also the legacy of lust, adultery and betrayal. After all, there’s some of that in most people’s ancestry, and this is part of the humanity he comes to share.

Overall, though, this whole introduction serves to link Old and New in Jesus. And something new is indeed happening – after the birth of Jesus, genealogies seem to lose their religious significance.

Once the story really gets going, with the conception and birth of Jesus – told mainly, here, from Joseph’s point of view. The meaning of the birth is spelled out in the two names given to the child – ‘Jesus’, meaning ‘God saves’ and ‘Emmanuel’, meaning ‘God with us’.

The visit of the Wise Men, with its tragic consequences for the families of Bethlehem, fulfils in symbol the prophecies of the nations coming to worship, but shows how even the greatest of worldly wisdom and the best of intentions need God’s guidance as well – and how acting on what seems logical and right can lead to disaster.

At the same time, their actions link again the two testaments, but with an ironic twist. In the book of Exodus, Moses was saved in Egypt from the infanticide of a tyrant, Pharoah. Now, a tyrant is in charge in Jerusalem, and Jesus has to flee to Egypt to escape with his life.

This whole story, with its glory and wonder and with its horror, is the more powerful now that I read it with the whole Old Testament story fresh in my mind. There’s a sense of fulfilment that comes across in a new way.

The genealogy helps. Honest.

Blogging the Bible 196 – Isaiah 60-66 -We three kings?

In chapter 60 we seem to leap ahead from Christmas to Epiphany, with the mention of gold, frankincense and kings – presumably the inspiration for the coronation of the magi in popular tradition.

Here, though, it’s more about the submission of the nations to the LORD than it is about long journeys in devout worship. Isaiah concludes with the vision of the vindication of Israel as a side-effect of the glorification of the LORD – justice and peace will be established, but it seems that they will come by force.

It’s in this setting that we get Isaiah 61:1-3, which Jesus quoted (Lue 4) to set out his mission. Again, reading it in context makes more sense of the anger of his hearers when he stopped part way through – just before the proclamation of old news for the oppressed turns to the day of vengeance of our God.

Jesus brings in the kingdom without the slaughter of nations. He reinterprets the old prophecies and fulfils them – bringing peace by a life of peace, and righteousness through a life without sin, not by a sword.

Perhaps that’s why he was worthy of the journey, the gifts and the worship of the Magi.