I’m old, and my eyes can no longer read the stars. There are holes in my cloak and my memories. But there are some things I will never forget. I’ll always remember that spectacular star.
Those who love a good mystery will love 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—seem to slip into the background. Those now taking centre stage are these strange, nameless visitors with their exotic gifts and a brilliant star that has guided them.
Biblical and ancient references describe magi as both a scientific, scholarly group and as a band of enchanters, magicians, and fortune tellers. They are often identified with visionary power and the ability to interpret dreams. Some say they are Persian priests, and other traditions have named them kings. However, since they enter the story because of their ability to read the stars, the best guess is that they are astrologers. They might have travelled from Persia, a place familiar with magi. They might have journeyed from Babylon, which had a long tradition of astronomy. Perhaps they trekked from Arabia, as indicated by the gifts they carried. One thing is certain, they are definitely foreigners, Gentiles visiting Jewish people who are living under the oppressive control of a Roman dictator.
The story of the Magi 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 see this don’t; they don’t understand it or don’t accept it. Yet, those who are considered outsiders are often the first to understand. The Magi are the forerunners of all who would welcome the Good News.
- If you could ask the wise Magi one question, what would it be?
- If you could take one gift to the Christ child, what would it be? Why?
- This story points to some of the many terms used to name the child in the manger (see Activity 1 in “Unwrapping The Magus’s Story”). What is your favourite name for the child and why is it your favourite?
- Imagine that you are one of the Magi. What do you see in the stable? Using up to 140 characters, tweet the news using #AdventUnwrapped