(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Coxy's Christmas Message 2011
24th December 2011
Where did the Magi come from? We don't really know. The Bible says they were from the east but that's a bit vague. I've read a number of scholarly books which discuss this. Some seem very confident that the Magi are from Babylonia. Or Persia. Or Arabia. (of course, it's hard to sell books in large numbers if you admit that you don't know very much). But some commentators are humble enough to admit that they don't know. I certainly don't. For what it's worth, my best guess is that they were from Arabia, but I'm really not sure.
And who were the Magi? Again, we don't really know. A lot of words have been used up defending one theory or another, but these theories depend in part on where we think the Magi came from, which we don't know, and it depends in part on what the word "Magi" means, but it seems to have several different meanings. What we do know is that:
In all probability, then, they were wealthy, educated gentiles.
In those days there was little division, if any, between philosophy, astrology and science. Now, of course, we look back and laugh at their scientific thinking. (In fact, we can find the science of just one or two hundred years ago laughable. This makes me wonder what future generations will think of the science we believe today. How many scientific "laws" that we're taught will be proved false in the next two hundred years? By its very nature, science develops. And the scientists of one generation can achieve prominence by proving the scientists of a previous generation to have been wrong.) But these philosophers / scientists / astrologers looked at the star, and they looked at their textbooks, and they found that, according to their science, a king of the Jews had been born. We don't know how they reached that conclusion, but they did, and it was true.
What does this say to us? I think it says that, no matter how far away a person is from understanding the Bible, no matter how far away he is from the church, no matter how crackpot his philosophy / science is, if he really wants to know the truth, God will find a way to get the truth to him:
Starting from where you are, there is a way to find the truth.
For the shepherds, who were Israelites, that way was by the angel chorus (Luke Chapter 2). But for the magi, educated gentiles, it was through faulty philosophy, through bad science, by the star that they thought they understood but really didn't. Even in their misunderstanding, God's grace met them and brought them to Christ, because they wanted to know the truth, and to live in accordance with it.
Every one of us is far too spiritually blind to find the truth for ourselves, but God reveals the truth to everyone who really seeks it - even if they're seeking it in a really silly place. Working with what people do understand, or what they think they understand, God can get them out of the east and into Bethlehem, to gaze on the Christ and worship Him.