By Rev. Eliana Maxim, Associate EP
“When they [wise men from the East] 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 say 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.”
Some years ago, I gave up on New Year’s resolutions. I had proven to be an utter failure at accomplishing those lofty goals. Instead, I went back to the story of Epiphany, an important part of the Christmas story that has traditionally played a significant role in my cultural traditions. As children, we waited for the visiting Magi almost with as much anticipation as we waited for Christ’s birth. Their exoticness mirrored our immigrant experience and their gifts, although completely impractical for a baby, were absolutely luxurious.
As an adult now, what draws me to these wise ones are four characteristics I believe were worthy of my efforts - not just in the coming year, but also in every year to come.
The Magi were observant. Although strangers in a foreign land, they never stopped looking around and being aware of their surroundings. Had they been distracted or more inwardly focused, they might have missed the star in the sky, misunderstood Herod’s intentions and who knows what else. I want to be more aware of the world around me.
They were a joyful bunch. Probably tired, homesick and second guessing themselves, nonetheless, they are overwhelmed with joy even before they have a chance to gaze upon the infant Jesus. Oh to be more joyful. Overwhelmingly so.
The Wise Ones are thankful. They know they never would have gotten to where they did without God’s help and they know they are in the presence of a kingly presence, and so they give thanks. On their knees. I want to commit to a profound thankfulness that will bring me to my knees.
Finally, the Magi are generous. They give from what they have, and they give without conditions or questions. Upon entering the humble home they could have reconsidered their gifts for a king, and left the child and his family something else. Or not their entire treasure chests. But they don’t. They give with abandon in much the same way that they gave thanks and expressed joy.
In this season of Epiphany, I wish you the gifts of the Magi. No, not gold, frankincense and myrrh. But rather gifts of awareness, joy, thankfulness and generosity. I believe these are worthy of our aspirations and certainly ones that as the body of Christ, we can nurture in one another.