Over the last few years, I’ve come to love the Magi, even though they strut into the story two years later and only in Matthew’s gospel. The traditions that have developed around them—that they were all men, that they were all kings, that there were only three of them, that they come from three different continents, that their names are Balthasar, Caspar and Melchior, etc.—might distract us from a vital truth in their twelve verse story.
The Magi resist empire.
If you’ll recall the text with me, King Herod believes the true King of the Jews has been born; he waylays the Magi and asks them to send word when they find him. It’s a suspicious premise, though Herod promises he wants to pay homage only. So the Magi, trusting their guts (and with a God-spoken dream) leave the country quietly, effectively, and unseen. They stand against the powers-that-be.
The writer of Matthew knows this. What does it mean for us to use our gifts for the glory of God, and to reject imperial mandates? The answer may surprise us all this Sunday. I look forward to seeing you then.