Advent is a time of preparation. In early Christian history, Christmas was a time when new believers were baptized and became members. Advent was a “mini-lent” as these people fasted and prayed and studied for 40 days. Lent is the 40 days before Easter. So Advent is a time when we prepare our homes, our hearts and our families for the Christ child. We say that Christ came to us at Christmas, Christ comes to us daily in the sacraments, the word and prayer, and Christ will come, will return in the future to usher in the eternal kingdom.
Lest we think that this is a Jewish dynamic, Matthew now inserts the back-story of the wise men, men from the East. Matthew is clear that they arrived after the birth of Christ but their journey must have started before. The Gentiles, that includes most of us, have always been part of the Christmas story and we celebrate that on Epiphany. The wise men arrive in Jerusalem and have an audience with King Herod. “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” The story is bigger than the Jewish nation! The story is bigger than you and me.
It is very easy for us to become very ethnocentric about Christmas and our faith. We think it is about my salvation and me. We say Christ saved me from my sin. The wise men force us to look beyond ourselves and to realize that others are watching the events of our lives. The priests knew the prophecy of Bethlehem but seemed indifferent. Herod had magicians and diviners who would have seen the stars but did not seem to note this star. Meanwhile these wise men from afar had insight beyond the politicians, the religious elders, and local people.
Perhaps the question to ask ourselves is to ponder if we are so involved in the known that we have blind spots that the “outsider” sees and is following? Are there “clues” from scripture, from nature like the star, or people coming into our churches that challenge us to take another look? Let us pray today that our eyes would be opened at Christmas and that the Holy Spirit will direct us to truths we need to note. Gifts are not just gold, frankincense and myrrh but can be the presence of a new person to open our eyes. “Lord, I want to see Jesus.”