“I wait for the Lord, my soul awaits. And, in His word I hope.”
Psalm 130 v. 5
I ought not to think of uncomfortable feelings. I ought not to be concerned about beliefs. I ought not to worry about my forthcoming thoughts and speech. I ought not to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes. I ought not to be troubled. I ought and should go!
In between a cold autumn evening, two cups of tea, and reading a highly intellectual book about early Christianity, I decided I’d go. Earlier that evening, I was invited to attend the closing of what was once an almost weekly staple in my life. I hadn’t attended for a while and felt lost when I made this decision. And I felt elements of loss when I no longer spent time with such gracious people. I remember now a conversation I had with a friend this past summer about how much I’d miss everyone! Yet, I knew it was the right thing to do because our Christian beliefs were so different, and it would be unfair to the group to sit there pretending I felt okay. Time after time, I fought with this deep pain within my soul—that the best thing for me to do was to walk away.
In accepting the invitation, my final attendance brought a simple kind of closure. It was good to see everyone for what, could possibly be, the last time we see each other in our lived experiences. I longed to apologize to the one I felt I’d hurt based on my wishy-washy, highly careful, and untrusting comportment. However, if this individual ever comes across this note, I say to you I am genuinely sorry. Please know I honor you as a child of God, no matter our different Christian beliefs. We take several routes daily, and perhaps one or two of our paths may cross again. And then, I’ll say to you once again— I apologize!
Considering this current circumstance, somehow, I am drawn to this verse:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12 vv. 1-2)
This, my verse to the group.
Whew! It feels so good to have this said. My soul is softer to offer me the will, sincerity, and fortitude to carry on filling in the blanks concerning previous reflections of this month. Wholeheartedly my attempt to discuss the Magi and magus, as I’ve mentioned before, is something that thrills my heart.
The Magi (magoi – Greek) is represented several times in the Bible. In previous writings, I mentioned that perhaps a few were influenced by Daniel since he was a part of a group associated with King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the interpretation of this dream (See: Daniel 1,2,3). Then in the book of Acts, we learn of two other people thought to be magos. They are Simon (Acts 8 vv. 9-11) and Bar-Jesus (Acts 13 v. 6). The author of Acts, Luke, as most scholars believe, touched on Simon. Simon (a former magos), thought to be converted to Christianity after the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7 vv. 54-60), was fascinated with the signs and amazing wonders performed by Philip. However, after Peter and John arrived and they also offered up the Holy Spirit to the people through touch, Simon suggested paying the apostles money to learn how to do such things. Peter rebuked Simon for making such an offer. Was Simon really saved? Did he just want to improve his magic act? And did Simon continue to carry the same heart as a charlatan? You get to decide!
Then in Acts (13 v. 6), Bar-Jesus, a magos and described as a false prophet, wanted nothing to do with the apostles. So much so he did his best to keep the proconsul Sergius Paulus (See: Acts 13 vv. 6-12) from meeting with Paul and Barnabas. But Paul told Bar-Jesus off (See: Acts 13 vv. 10-11). Right then, Bar-Jesus went blind, and in this, the one thing he tried to prevent happened. Sergius Paulus then believed in the faith of Jesus Christ. Was Bar-Jesus insecure? Was he afraid of the wisdom of Paul and Barnabas? How are you with the Biblical wisdom of others? A few things to think about here.
Then there’s a different group of Magi. A specific group some scholars (taken from Dio Chrysostom’s writings and others) say were probably influenced by an instructor named Zarathustra or Zoroaster (meaning a golden star), who was perhaps Persian and whose teachings focused on two beings. One being of goodness and the other of evil. Some information on the Magi can be found here.
Today, the Magi who took gifts to Baby Jesus are as intriguing as they are intricate to know. We call them priests, kings, astrologers, and wise men! We say they were three, but Matthew doesn’t give us a specific number of how many visited Herod and Jesus. But then there are three names– Casper, Melchoir, and Balthasar! And Matthew only writes about three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2 vv. 1-12). Perhaps there were three, but the Bible doesn’t tell us so!
The Magi brought Jesus gifts! But on their visit to Herod, they somewhat invalidated Herod’s rule by stating they were searching for the King of the Jews! Think about this! Matthew’s depiction of this group of Magi was favorable in all aspects. He did not go deeply into who they were because Matthew refers to Daniel (Matthew 24 v. 15) in his account of his time spent with Jesus! Magi were mentioned in Daniel; therefore, Matthew did not have to completely tell us a great deal about them.
The most interesting thing for me in Matthew’s discussion on the Magi was the research I did concerning perspectives of who they were. Their alignment to the name, which means a golden star. In addition, the other types of magoi mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments were likewise interesting. And the ones who bowed before, Him, who is all good—the same ones who continue to captivate us each Christmas season.
Some say it may have taken at least two months to follow the star. Others say about six months to a year. But for me, the time it took doesn’t matter. What matters most to me is that they got there!
In my journey to know Jesus more, I’ve found that on some days, it can take much effort, while on different days, the process is much faster. The remarkable thing is, like the Magi, we are moving toward the star as we come to know Him better. And we, as Christians who follow the Word of God, will eventually get there!
The Magi showed us the importance of kindness by giving gifts to the one who created it all. Contributions to the real King of Israel—as was mentioned in Ps. 72 v. ten and Is. 60 v. 6. The Magi regifted to Jesus what He, Jesus, already created! In this act of the greatest thankfulness, we do the same during this Christmas season. We give to the Christ within to the people who’ve touched our lives throughout the year. We give the gifts that Jesus has entrusted us with—love, kindness, and gentleness! We apologize to the souls we’ve neglected to see and to the ones we’ve hurt. We give back to Jesus when we learn to significantly love and serve each other; when we learn to think of others first!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.