IMG_8486Back to the Magi. The Magi must have connected the coming of the Messiah with the unusual star that traveled before them, because they were familiar with the Bible. Even though they are not Jewish, they may have read the Jewish scriptures, as there are Jews who lived in the East where they came from.


It is interesting that they know more about the Messiah than the King of Judah, Herod. King Herod has to ask his chief priests where the Messiah is to be born, a fact any Jewish person would know.

Why not Herod? Herod wasn’t Jewish!  He was an Edomite who got the throne of Israel through bribing the Romans and doing their bidding. He would have some Jewish teaching form his parents, raised Jewish, but not very much sunk in. This is why he never fit in. Why Herod was not well like by the Jewish people and why he is so paranoid about the Messiah coming and taking away his power. His power is suspect anyway because he isn’t really a Jew to many of his countrymen. Even those who are Jewish who are in positions of power with him are also upset that the Magi have discovered the Messiah is born.

Notice the Magi call Jesus, the King of the Jews. The Jewish people of Jerusalem don’t call Jesus that. This should be Herod’s title. But, the non-Jewish Magi are right in calling Jesus this. King of the Jews and beyond, actually. When these Magi return to the East they will be the first non-Jewish people to spread the good news of Jesus to non- Jewish people.

It’s interest that at the beginning of the life of Jesus, those who aren’t Jewish know he is the Messiah and the Jews deny it. Then at the end of his life the non-Jewish Romans put a sign above Jesus on his cross that says, King of the Jews.  Again, the non-Jews are the ones who know he is Messiah. These bookends of non-Jews declaring he is Messiah show us Jesus is crashing into the world and the whole world is changing as he is Messiah for everyone!


When have changed your mind on something significant in the last 10 years?

7222_Adoración_de_los_Reyes_MagosWhy are the magi called kings?

They are probably called kings because they lay down prostrate on the ground, an act called “obeisance”, that shows homage to another king. The early Christians probably matched these guys with this prophecy from Psalm 72:10-11,

“The eastern kings of Sheba and Sea will bring him gifts. All Kings will do obeisance before him and all nations will serve him.”

The magi do bring gifts. We are told there are three gifts. Actually the reason we say there are three magi is because there are three gifts. The Bible doesn’t say how many guys there are. Eastern Christian tradition has as many as 12 magi. The Western Church, three.

So they give gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These aren’t very practical gifts for a baby shower. Maybe this is why men are not usually invited to baby showers. Ahh, but these gifts are all very expensive. Which makes for some very interesting speculation.

We assume at the time of the birth of Jesus, Mary and Jospeh are not well off. They didn’t have the means to reserve housing before they traveled to Jerusalem for the census, for instance.  Also, when they went to the Temple and made a sacrifice for their new baby boy after he was born, they gave two doves, a poor person’s sacrifice.  But, after that, they don’t appear poor again. What happened?

Here is what I think happened. I think the three Magi happened! Mary and Joseph are able to use their gifts from the magi to fund their escape to Egypt, and they would certainly have enough left over to finance Joseph starting a construction business, which is what “carpenter” really means in the Bible language. “Builder.”  The holy family is doing well when they finally get back to Nazareth and start this construction firm.

So, there he goes again! It appears to me that God works out all these details behind the scenes to make sure Jesus is protected and he is cared for.


Did you ever think about what Joseph and Mary ever did with the gifts? Who has given you “gifts” that have helped you in life?

Saturday was the end of the Christmas season as we know it. January 6th is Epiphany, the day we remember the magi visiting the baby Jesus. January 6th is also a big Christmas celebration in other places, including Spanish speaking locales such as Puerto Rico where they celebrate Dias de Los Reyes Magos. Literally “Day of the Magi Kings.” I know about the Puerto Rico celebration best because my parents used to visit Puerto Rico a lot, and they collected Puerto Rican art called, “Santos.”

This is a Santos. Santos are wooden carvings done since the 16th century in Puerto Rico. These carvings were of Jesus, Jesus and Mary, various saints, and the most popular subject of all, “The Three Kings.” Many of the poorer rural villages wouldn’t have access to churches and so these Santos would be aids to worship in private homes. Also slaves wouldn’t have access to the churches. So the Santos would make any place a place of worship.

Why were the Three Kings for Christmas time so popular? Well, when you think of it, these three kings certainly have more biblical significance than the Coca Cola Santa we have adapted over the last century. They are a great symbol for Jesus and the celebration and gift giving. We don’t know much about these kings, but there are stories outside of the Bible that have told of them since the 400’s. By the 800’s they are even given names: Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.

Look at these kings closely Notice one of the kings is black. This is Balthazar. Whenever the three kings are presented in Santos, Balthazar always holds the prominent position in the middle. With the Afro-Caribbean culture of the slaves and former slaves in Puerto Rico this holds special significance.

This santos is part of my parent’s collection. It was carved by a prominent Santos artist, Jose Ramos, in the 1800’s. Notice Balthazar in the middle.

OK, so who are these kings?

We have the only story about them in Matthew the second chapter. Here is what we know.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

    who is to shepherd my people Israel.’

Who are the magi? The word for them is Magios, which we get our word “Magic” from. They are probably astrologers from near Iraq who study the stars and make predictions, like people who do horoscopes today. They also frequently interpreted dreams. What they are not called is wise men or kings.


What are some faith artifacts that you have to help you focus and aid in telling the good news?


I have sensitive feet. Whenever I go to the beach, I always wear sandals or shoes. I watch so many other people running around with bare feet and walking over sand and rocks and I can’t imagine.

But, the time to be extra careful when you have sensitive feet is if you are walking barefoot in the dark in your own home and you have grandchildren.

No matter how much they clean up and you clean up afterward, the random lego or piece of some farm house or something is going to jump out and you are going to step on it. Go into the kitchen in the middle of the night for a drink of water and you might get… Ouch!!

Walking in the dark can be dangerous.

But, no matter how careful you are, you can get hurt walking in darkness.

The Bible talks about walking in darkness.  Especially comparing walking in darkness to not walking with God.

Take Proverbs 4.

The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

But the way of the wicked is like total darkness.

They have no idea what they are stumbling over.

When we aren’t follow God’s ways, it is an invitation to stumble along a lot in life.  And you can get hurt along the way.

But, there is something else that can happen when you walk in the darkness.

You can get lost.

I was recently camping with Greg up in Yosemite. We hiked North Dome. I had never been to this campground before and for one thing, there are no lights at night. So, when I have to go to the bathroom it is wise to bring a flashlight. I didn’t need no stinking flashlight! I found the bathroom, but when I set out back to our campsite, of course I go the wrong way. I end up wandering in the complete opposite direction into some other campsites in the middle of the night.

When you walk in darkness, you can get lost. Like the familiar passage from Isaiah 9 says,

The people who walk in darkness

will see a great light.

For those who live in a land of deep darkness,

a light will shine.

Yes, when you aren’t following God’s ways you can get hurt and you can get lost.

This is why God uses a pillar a fire to guide the Israelites in the wilderness. This is why my Yosemite salvation is similar.  NEXT SLIDE

I am saved because Greg loves fire, and I so I just stopped, and looked for the brightest campfire. Sure enough, the campfire above all campfires leads me home. Greg builds a beacon!

Here he is he just preparing for the evening.

This time I learned two things.

One is, you can get lost walking in the darkness. Follow the light.

The second thing I leaned is the next time I had to go, the forest behind the tent is just fine.

But, you can get hurt walking in the dark and you can get lost.


When have you had a problem with darkness?