The Story of Christmas: Meet the Magi

Visitors bearing exotic gifts followed a star

The Magi
Do you love a good mystery? What about Matthew’s story of the Magi: Who are these mysterious travellers?

When the Magi appear in the Nativity story, the main characters—Joseph, Mary, and the Christ child—briefly slip into the background. Centre stage is taken by strange, nameless visitors with exotic gifts who have followed a brilliant star.

Magi have been described as both a scholarly group and as a band of enchanters and fortune tellers. They are often identified with the ability to interpret dreams. Some say they were Persian priests; other traditions have named them kings. Since they enter the story reading the stars, a good guess is that they are astrologers.

The Magi might have travelled from Persia or journeyed from Babylon, which had a long tradition of astronomy. The gifts they brought with them suggest they may have trekked from Arabia. One thing is certain: they are definitely foreigners, Gentiles visiting Jewish people who are oppressed by a Roman dictator.

The Magi’s story is that of the whole gospel wrapped in a small gift box! The Holy Mystery that is Wholly Love actively seeks out relationship with us and is revealed in human form.

This takes place in unorthodox ways, in overlooked places, involving unusual people. Those who should notice don’t; they don’t understand it or accept it. Yet outsiders are often the first to understand. The Magi are the forerunners of all who would welcome the good news. Ask yourself:

  • If you could ask the wise Magi one question, what would it be?
  • If you could take a gift to the Christ child, what would it be? Why?
  • Imagine that you are one of the Magi. What do you see in the stable?

Explore the characters in the Christmas story:

And watch for more blogs retelling the Story of Christmas.

—Robyn Brown-Hewitt, Atlantic School of Theology and United Church Chaplain at Dalhousie University