Monday, December 31, 2012

Gospel text for Sunday 6 January 2013

Matthew 2:1-12     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." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
 `And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, 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 road.
Reflection    I read this story of a frightened king, his kow-towing officials, astrologers who go out of their way to follow a dream, and a peasant girl who consents to let her world be turned upside down based on her encounter with an angel, and ask myself, what is the wisdom here? What possible meaning is here for me? Oddly enough, the aphorism that leaps to mind is AWTTW - A Word To The Wise. 
According to Ben Franklin, "A word to the wise is enough, and many words won't fill a bushel." Clearly, the wisdom of Franklin’s aphorism predeeded his time as is evident in the story of the “men from the East... in the time of King Herod” who searched for and found “the child who has been born king of the Jews.” With little information to go on (one sentence uttered by an ancient prophet and an ah-hah moment) the men from the East hit their mark and were rewarded with joy.  Apparently the astrologers were also familiar with another bit of wisdom, “Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut.” They evaded the duplicitious Herod, “and left for their country by another road.”
I like to think the astrologers saw the handwriting on the wall, as well as in the stars, when Herod secretly called them, questioned them and sent them to Bethlehem in pursuit of information. Surely they sensed that Herod was unsettled. Surely they read between the lines that something was going on with significant social and political implications. So they kept their mouths shut, continued on their way, found the new life they were looking for, and did not spill the beans. 
So what is the wisdom in this story for me? When I have a spark of illumination, an ah-hah moment, a golden glimmer of the peace and love and joy that assures me God is with me and for me, don’t get distracted. Remember it is a treasure, a gift comparable to gold, frankincense or myrrh. Don’t let social and political forces (read, people and their agendas) disturb my peace, colllide with my love or meddle with my joy, steal my gift. Just keep my mouth shut and keep on going. Be wise. Read between the lines. A Word To The Wise Is Sufficient. The wise don’t need lengthy explanations. 

(If you click on Wisdom (Proverbs 8) above and to the right, you will see the full image of Proverbs 8)