At the end of today’s Gospel we hear: “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.”
This is an interesting statement, that I think bears some reflection. The Magi were searching, seeking something. Other translations call the magi astrologers or wise men. They were sort of like philosophers, people seeking to know the deepest truth and meaning of things. They follow a star, and in doing so they find the Christ child. They find the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And recognizing this we are told in the Gospel that “They prostrated themselves and did him homage.”, that is, they are overwhelmed and throw themselves on the floor and worship. They recognized that in this child they had found much more than what simple appearances could reveal. The magi recognized Jesus as all they were seeking and searching for. More than the newborn King of the Jews, Jesus is the fulfillment of all their deepest longings and desires. And so “They prostrated themselves and did him homage.”
This recognition changed them. It did not leave them the same. This discovery of the Christ child required something different and new of them. They were fundamentally changed. And so they now had to travel life by another route, by another way.
The magi receive a warning in a dream. This is not so much their dream, but rather the dream of God for the magi and for us. It is God’s dream that we will fully and truly be what we were created to be, that is, the glorious children of God. The dream warns the magi not to go back to Herod, not to go back to a former way of life, the way of conquest and domination, the way of greed and selfishness, the way of discrimination and hatred, the way of division and fear. To go back to Herod means to go back to Herod’s way of being King: oppression, fear, greed and death.
Now having met the Christ-child the magi must go by another way, that is, Christ’s way of Kingship; the way of service, of generosity, of love, of life. Their lives have been changed by the encounter with Christ and so they must now travel “another way”, the way of grace and life, rather than the way of sin and death.
Brothers and sisters, we too have encountered the Christ Child over these last few weeks as we have celebrated Christmas. Like the magi we have come to offer our Savior our gifts. We have worshiped Him, just as did the magi. This encounter also changes us. God has a dream for us as well, the dream that we live truly as the glorious children of God.
This dream of God for us warns us, as we now come to the end of the Christmas season, not to go back to Herod, that is, not to go back to the way of the world, the way of oppression and domination, the way of greed and selfishness, the way of destruction and death.
Having encountered the Christ Child, having come face to face with the incredible love of God for us that let go of all of God’s power and invincibility to become as helpless and dependant as a newborn baby, all for love of you and me, we are changed. That encounter with the mystery of the Incarnation does not leave us the same. To truly see God’s love for us does not leave us unchanged.
And so now we too, as we go forward from Christmas time, are warned to go by another way; the way of Jesus, the way of service, of joy, of peace, of love.
What corrections in our course or changes in our way do we need to make in light of finding the Christ Child? What change in course are you called to make? The encounter with God made flesh cannot leave us the same.
Do not go back to Herod. Do not go back to the way of the world.
Recognize in the Christ Child God’s dream for you, to live as the glorious child of God. Go by another way. AMEN.