After their visit to the Christ Child, the magi disappear from sight, and we are left wondering: what happened next?
told by Deborah
When Herod was ruling over Galilee, magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem, looking for “the child who has been born king of the Jews.” They said they had seen his star arise, and had come to pay their respects.
When Herod heard about this, he was frightened, as were the rest of the bureaucrats; so he called a meeting of all the senior clergy and religious scholars and asked them where the Messiah was to be born.
“In Bethlehem,” they told him, “according to the prophet Micah, who said, ‘And you, Bethlehem, can hold your head high, for from you will come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
So Herod met with the magi secretly to find out exactly when the star had arisen. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, “Go and make a thorough search for the child and, when you’ve found him, let me know so that I can go and pay my respects, too.”
So they set out and, as they traveled, the star they had seen went ahead of them, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were ecstatic.
When they entered the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they bowed down before him. Then they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another route.
So, after seeing the baby Jesus and dropping off their gifts, the magi from the East headed back home. The end. ???
Like characters from the old movies these visitors ride off into the sun(rise) … and are never heard from again. No sequel, no spin-off series (“The Return of the Magi”); these mysterious strangers vanish from our sight forever.
So… Who were these people and why did they come and what did they want?
We are told that they brought gifts “of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” That makes sense: visitors from a foreign land would bring exotic spices — just as travelers today bring back Fortnum and Mason delicacies from a trip to London; delivering treats that aren’t readily available elsewhere. And the gold: ready cash to be used as needed, the first-century equivalent of a Target gift card, always a good choice.
Beyond that, the magi paid their respects then got on their horses and rode away. That’s it. That’s all we’re told.
And it drives us crazy. We want to know: then what happened? Where did they go back to? What did they do when they got there? Did they tell anybody? And, since none of that is revealed, what was the Gospel writer’s point in telling us about them?
A friend of mine thinks that maybe there isn’t a point. “Maybe it is meant to show that people come and go out of your life,” Anne said, “no matter who you are. Even if you’re Jesus.”
Well, that’s certainly true: we’ve all experienced folks coming into our lives, staying for a while and then departing, never to be heard from again. Sometimes we feel the loss acutely, hurt and lonely in their absence, others are missing for weeks or months before we notice that they’ve gone. Occasionally we’re relieved never to set eyes on those people again.
Yet, regardless of our feelings, all those we have known — from the precious to the pesky and downright annoying, the decades-long relationships and brief encounters — leave traces in our lives. (And we, on theirs.) Years later we may find ourselves quoting their phrases, remembering conversations, using their methods, imitating their behaviors… for good or for ill.
So we know that meeting the Lord Jesus had to have had an effect on the lives of those travelers. But we’ll never know what it was. Just as we will never know how our lives have influenced the lives of others.
Perhaps, though, as with most things, there’s more to the story. What if we view it from a different angle? What if we don’t look for what Jesus did for the magi, but what they did for him.
Perhaps, if we read on, we will learn the rest of the story. Because what happens next is that Joseph has a dream that tells him he must immediately pack up his household and head to Egypt, to save the life of the little boy and his mother.
Travel wasn’t cheap. There were no low-price Greyhound routes or super-saver air fares; there was only a long, tiring, dusty journey on foot — or possibly astride a donkey. You would need food for the journey, shelter along the way, and a place to live once you got there. All those things cost money.
Money. As in gold.
As in the gift of the magi.
It would appear that the otherwise seemingly pointless visit of these otherwise unknown characters made it possible for Joseph to get Jesus and Mary out of Herod’s reach. The magi were instrumental in saving the life of the Lord Jesus; that’s “what happened next” in their lives.
We never hear about these travelers from the East again, and it is pretty certain that they never learned what a difference their visit made in the life of the Child — and in the future of the world. But, I think you will agree, their accomplishment was huge.
There is always more to the story — more to the magi’s story, more to our stories — than what outside appearances seem to reveal. Our words, our deeds, our love, our prayers … all that we are and all that we do stretch beyond the immediate present; like ripples on a pond or waves on the ocean, their effects reach times and tides of which we know nothing. Our acts of kindness and compassion will touch the lives of people we will never know — perhaps even save lives. We cannot know for certain.
What we do know is that no effort is wasted, no act of kindness is too slight, no prayer goes unheard. What we think, say, do, and believe makes a difference in the world. And sometimes it makes all the difference in the world.
We may never see the results of what we do, but we must remember that the Story continues, even after we have departed. What is important is that we leave the love and light of Christ in our wake.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Live with abundant love.