The mysterious visitors Matthew’s Gospel portrays as coming to pay homage to Jesus in Bethlehem were operating from a different paradigm than guides most people.

They were not guided by a desire to attain wealth, fame, fortune, prestige, or power. They did not come to conquer or to build a great kingdom. They came to πεσοντες προσεκυνησαν, to “fall down prostrate” before a child. The Rev. John Henry Hopkins notwithstanding, these magoi were certainly not kings. Kings are not in the habit of πεσοντες προσεκυνησαν. They are more accustomed to having people fall down in reverence and honour before them.

How did these magoi come to a place in their lives where they had let go of the determination to achieve the glittering rewards of the kingdoms of this world? What made it possible for them to bow down before the beauty, wisdom and truth that was born in Jesus?

According to Matthew’s account, the magoi

came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? (Matthew 2:1,2a)

These magoi were able to see the beauty and truth embodied in Jesus because they were willing to ask questions. They knew that, in themselves, by their own powers and wisdom, they did not have the answers to the mysteries of life. They were not in fact what we might conventionally think of as “wise men” at all. They were not “answer men” who believed they had the solutions to all the problems and conundrums of the world. They were seekers; they did not have a carefully mapped out plan to follow.

They understood that in order to be found, we have to be willing to acknowledge that we are lost.

For all the beauty and power of the musical gift of “Amazing Grace” the Rev. John Newton may not have done the spiritual world a great service when he seemed to suggest that “I once was lost but now am found.” Lost and found does not just happen once. We are found at times and lost at times. We discern our way a little, then lose the map and have to grope forward unsure of the path ahead. The stars provided to guide our lives do not usually come with blinding clarity. Over and over we need to find the star and come back to the wisdom of seeking guidance.

These magoi were feeling their way. They were willing to seek advice, to look for guidance and direction wherever they thought it might be available. Their minds and their hearts were open. They sought help wherever they thought it might be found.

They were not locked into a single rigid paradigm of truth and reality. They were willing to move beyond the well established familiar and comfortable boundaries in their search for truth.

Epiphany is a challenge to embrace the mystery of life. It is a challenge to acknowledge that there may be ways to navigate through life other than the rational, reasonable, familiar ways by which we usually seek to find our way. There are subtle modes of perception that transcend our intellect and go deeper than the knowledge that resides simply in the linear rational dimension. We travel better by questions than we do by answers.

Where are the stars that can guide us? What are the questions we need to ask in order to find the way forward? What boundaries do we need to be willing to cross in order to gain access to the wisdom that can help us move towards the light that was embodied in the child these magoi came to honour?

 

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