In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men 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.” Matthew 2:1-2 (NRSV)
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:12 (NRSV)
I still remember the Sunday even though it’s been thirty-five years ago. In my sermon that Sunday morning I had criticized one of the TV evangelists. A member of St. John’s, Hosmer remarked to me after the service that he would not be active in the church if it were not for that TV evangelist. God taught me a valuable lesson that day, one I remember to this day. God can use other than Lutheran pastors to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. God can even use TV evangelist who have not always lived the most Christian lifestyle. On Sunday we celebrate Epiphany Day, the day in the church year that we remember the magi worshiping the infant Jesus. What I find fascinating in this story is how God directs the magi. God, first of all uses a star. Then God uses a passage from Micah interpreted by the religious leaders. Finally, as the story ends God uses dreams to direct the magi home. The point is that God can use not only different people but also different ways to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. The magi (translated as wise men in the NRSV) were not kings but probably members of the priestly caste of the religion of Zoroastrianism that had a reputation for astrology. Other scholars claim that at the time of Jesus the Greek term magi referred to astronomers, fortune-tellers, or star-gazers. What we do know is that they were not Jews or believers in the Lord. Some claim that the magi came, worshipped and left with no change in their life. I wonder if that is correct? Can anyone who has an encounter with Jesus be the same? Matthew ends this story that the magi left “by another road”. The word road can also be translated “way” a term used by the early Christians to identify themselves (see Acts 9:2 and six other places in Acts). I believe that the term can be interpreted not only literally but also figuratively. The magi arrived as worshippers of a false god and left worshippers of the true God. Our God can use stars, dreams and even unfaithful evangelist to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. As we begin the New Year reflect on the different ways God has used to bring you to faith in Jesus Christ and offer a prayer of thanks for all the ways God is at work in the world helping to spread the message of the gospel.