January 4, 2016

Nativity: January 4, 2016


"They prostrated themselves and did him homage" (Matthew 2:11)

Led by God, the Magi followed until “the star … stopped over the place where the child was. … 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) The Magi have been led. They have followed the star and have found who they were searching for.

As they enter the nativity there is only one response, for they know who they are in the presence of. “The wise men … throw themselves onto the ground before him. This is the homage that is offered to a divine king. The gifts brought by the wise men may be explained in similar terms. They are not practical gifts, of a kind that the holy family might have had a use for at this moment. They express the same thing as the [homage]: they acknowledge the royal dignity of him to whom they are offered. Gold and incense are also mentioned in Isaiah 60:6 as gifts of homage that the Gentiles will place before the God of Israel. … In the Church’s tradition— with certain variations— the three gifts have been thought to represent three aspects of the mystery of Christ: the gold points to Jesus’ kingship, the incense to his divine sonship, the myrrh to the mystery of his Passion”. [18] (emphasis added)

As mentioned earlier, one of the more sobering moments in my life came when I realized that my understanding of God was more influenced by Hollywood or holidays than it was influenced by the Scriptures. Therefore, it is important for us to consider that the Magi knew exactly who they were seeking from the very moment they left the east. They are not surprised. You don’t travel hundreds of miles, risking the danger of travel in foreign lands, unless you know you’re going to see the Messiah. You don’t immediately prostrate yourself before an infant child unless you know this child is the King of Kings. And, think about it, why else would they pack three very particular gifts from the very onset of their journey? They packed gold, frankincense, and myrrh before they left because they knew who they were leaving for. The Magi knew who Jesus was.  There’s a great line in the 1995 movie The American President that says something similar to, “When people are thirsty enough in the desert they’ll drink the sand when they see a mirage.” You and I are thirsty, we are searching. “The desire for God is written in the human heart”. [19]

“Man is in search of God. … man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence.” [20] We want God. However, if God is not our center, if we resist being led by God, we’ll drink the sand when we see a mirage. The first step, the most important step, is getting to know the person of Jesus Christ.

In all of my searching I wanted God; however, I wanted God on my terms. I searched for God wanting to tell God who I wanted Him to be rather than have Him tell me who I really am. Then something profound happened: I got to know Him. The more our relationship deepened, the more He became the center of my life. The more our relationship deepened, the more I allowed Him to lead me. The more our relationship deepened, the more I saw the “mirages” for what they really were.

Yesterday we discussed the importance of being led; that’s the “what”. Today we consider the importance of knowing Jesus in a personal relationship; that’s the “how.”

Merry Christmas. Once again today, I say: Merry Christmas. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) Do you know Him? Do you really know Him? Deeper than you longing for Him is His longing for you.

Merry Christmas: that’s why He came. He wants to know you. He wants a relationship with you. You no longer have to drink the sand and chase the mirages … God is chasing after you. It’s time to get to know Him.

For your prayer

Prayerfully imagine the scene in Matthew 2:11. Be in the scene. Be with the Magi as they enter. You are with them. You too bow … laying face down on the floor before the child. You too rise. You too want to offer Him a gift. However, He doesn’t want gold, frankincense, or myrrh. He wants something personal, something from your heart. As you approach Mary and the baby what does He want you to give Him?

Today's prayer

“Father, I want to know you. I want a relationship with you. Teach me how to pray. Teach me how to live. Teach me how to be in relationship with you.”

[18] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pgs. 106-107
[19] Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 27
[20] Ibid., no. 2566

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