To think of goodwill from God to the world is to think universally. I remember fondly from my old church in Portland, Oregon called Imago Dei (Image of God) how the slogan was “to take the whole gospel to the whole world”. That summed up much of what is intended in the brighter spots to Christian history.
But Christian history has to have a template and God gives one in the gospel. As wonderful as it was for Peter to be the first person to preach the gospel post-resurrection that is not the first example touched by the presence of the Divine.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11).
These magi were spiritual seekers. They had a mixed bag of what had been figured out before discerning the star of Bethlehem but it seems clear that they had humility going for them quite well.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star—- Why does it say they were overjoyed at the end and not at the beginning of their journey? It is is simply because there was a sense of fulfillment in that the star had taken them to the fulfillment of all their desire to see this great king. This fulfillment, like any true spiritual fulfillment, is in the discerning of Jesus and his will.
on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother—- With the perspective we have now of semitic peoples for centuries leading up to that time we can apply what we know of the role of the queen mother. The recognition of hierarchy in the royal courts of those people had a place for the queen mother that was higher in distinction than the king’s wife. Joseph was not chopped liver but they knew that the infant was a fully endowed king and thus no figurative crown on his head. Mary, however is named because she would be the gaberah (great lady) as the queen mother would be know. Matthew had the proper theological hindsight to note it this way.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage— This is where discerning how Jesus is Lord turns into action. Seek him. Find him. Worship him. In prostrating they lay themselves down on the ground in vulnerability and surrender.
opened their treasures and offered him— Recall the words of Jesus where he said where your treasure is there is your heart also. This is their gateway action example for us on going from servile fear like a slave to relationship. Relationship is the heart of the gospel.
gifts of gold—- St. Ireneus stated in Against Heresies that gold is a symbol of royalty, frankincense is in the latria (worship) of God and myrrh Jesus’ humanity. It is also noteworthy according the Ignatius Study Bible that myrrh was used to anoint levitical priests for service. In summary, this interpretation could point to those symbols of speaking of Jesus as God incarnate and as a royal priest.
I began this commentary about the whole gospel to the whole world. It is fitting to point out two things that we learn from this passage. If one were to take away one element of the three gifts of the magi you would have an incomplete teaching of the completeness in Jesus being Lord and Savior. No divinity means that his atonement has a limit to at best a year since his priesthood and sacrifice would be of a finite being. No royalty means that Jesus cannot reign in our hearts much less the world. And if one were to take away Jesus’ humanity we would not be seeing a chance of adoption in Christ through the gospel. All of Jesus must be presented by his Church and it must be unwavering.
The second thing I would point out that just as there is a holistic vision of Jesus to be appreciated there is a holistic treatment by God to the world that is implied. These magi were easterners but they were led by a miracle and the rays of truth in their hearts to encounter Jesus the Son of David. On the first day that Jesus drew non-amniotic fluid breath there is a chance for the world to come and adore him. He is always the same and never changing. The invitation each day, each season is there to give him our all as he gave his all. It is no coincidence that Bethlehem means house of bread and Jesus described himself in the bread as broken for all who would have salvation in him.
What is stopping us in turn from the chance to come and adore Jesus? If we see him as distant, who moved? And if you see a star guiding you out of your comfort zone towards Jesus, even if it is that small voice in your heart, what is lost and gained if you go with that? These are the questions worth the asking in all ages.