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. – Matthew 2:2
How long did they journey? What did they hear? What smells escorted them? Let’s open a topographical map of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Israel. Imagine travelling with them.
Western Iran’s mountains rival the peaks of Alberta’s Rockies. From such heights, the adventurers voyage down into lush valleys of the mighty Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Fording each in turn, they trek the valley’s length and climb the long desert shoulder, roughly 100 kilometres, through Syria or Jordan. Finally they cross the Jordan River into Israel.
They risk all this on the strength of a rumour and a hope. Following the Light.
Sounds foolhardy, if you ask me.
The same rumour motivates King Herod to a different kind of quest: A light brighter than his own? Will he lose control? Give up power? Forfeit the comfort he has carefully amassed for years? Not on your life. Disturbed and hostile, Herod seeks to extinguish the Light.
He’s clearly the villain in this story. But, give the guy a break. Do I want God to rearrange my circumstances? Overturn all that I’ve established?
And what about the Scribes? Like the Persian astronomers they’ve spent decades learning. They have illumined minds, but they’re content to philosophise. Offer opinions. Argue theories. What they know doesn’t move them to worship.
Who can blame them? When we’ve grown up with the stories, it’s easy to keep our distance. To enjoy the ideas, without getting enmeshed in what God is doing.
The Magi have a rumour: a glimmer of light. They don’t know what God might be up to. But their hearts are full of courage and hope and longing. They jump in with both feet. Foolhardy?
Here’s the thing: before the Magi set out on their quest; before they throw everything on the line in search of the King, God sets out on a quest of his own. Travelling to Earth, becoming a human baby, the God of the universe comes to seek his people. He lays his love, his reputation, his life on the line—for us.
When Jesus grows up, he, too, will journey to Jerusalem. There another Herod will see him executed on a cross. God pours his life out as a love-gift for you and me. He conquers death for us. He trades our sin and death for his love and life.
We can’t control God. But God is governed by his love and faithfulness. Our power becomes tyranny. Our smugness is a trap. But when we actively trust God, who comes to us in Jesus, his Light grows in us.
As we begin this Year of our Lord 2017, let’s jump into the quest to know Jesus and his love. This God has poured himself out in love for us. Let’s learn to love him with all we’ve got, and all we are.