Gospel Reading December 25th
This passage from Gospel of Matthew recounts the visit paid by the wise men from the East when Christ was born. The wise men or “Magi”, who were scholars of their time, arrived in Jerusalem, most likely from Persia, and approached king Herod saying, “Where is He who has been born a King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship him”.
When King Herod heard why the Magi had come to Jerusalem, he was troubled because he felt the new-born King would threaten his reign. He contrived an evil plan, asking the Magi to notify him when they found the child, so that he too could worship Him.
The Magi then left the king’s court and continued to follow the star, which took them to Christ. Upon entering the house and seeing Christ, “they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy”, “fell down and worshipped Him” and presented Him with their treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then they departed, but being divinely warned that they should not return to Herod, they left for their own country by another way.
The gifts of the Magi are of particular spiritual and theological significance. The gift of gold is taken as the sign that Jesus is the King of Israel, of the entire Universe, and of the Kingdom of God to come. This is a crucial part of the Christmas story in the Gospels. It led Herod to kill all the “male children in Bethlehem and in all the region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men” (Mt 2:16).
The gift of frankincense is taken to signify the fact that Jesus is God, since incense is for worship, and only God may be worshipped.
And the gift of myrrh is for the Lord Jesus who has come to die as the perfect sacrifice for the people. For the dead were anointed with myrrh, as Jesus Himself was anointed, according to the Scriptures, at the time of His death (Jn 19:39-40).
In the gifts of the Magi therefore, are contained all the mysteries of Christ’s coming. They point to the purpose of His appearance on earth – He is the royal King, the Son of David, whose Kingdom will have no end.
As we approach Christmas, we should be compelled to think about what this mystical event means for our spiritual life and, like the Magi, consider what gifts of gratitude we can offer to the Lord to show our philotimo.
Source: December 2015 – January 2016 Lychnos Edition