Using their knowledge of the stars, the magi came close to the child Jesus. But it was not near enough because they found themselves in the city of Jerusalem. They knew they were lost. And so they asked for directions. That was when history was kind to them and called them the wise men. Men who stop and ask for directions are wise. Men who are wiser have GPS.
The journey of the wise men tells us that wisdom is not complete without human cooperation and belief. Without seeking the guidance of God and the help of our fellow human being, wisdom is nothing but likened to Buddha’s enlightenment.
Even those who are learned need more than learning in order to find Christ. Even those who are educated need more than education to find God. Even those who are schooled need more than schooling to find Jesus. The example of the wise men reminds us that without faith, reason, logic and intelligence can be useless.
This is what the other king, King Herod, demonstrated. When Herod heard that they were looking for the newborn king of the Jews, he was greatly troubled. He assembled all his advisers and asked the wise men where the Christ was to be born. They said, Bethlehem, which means the house of bread.
Herod was not being wise as a king. He was so wrapped up in himself that nobody else mattered. He could have asked his soldiers to accompany the magi, but he did not. That is the folly of the wise.
It is also the irony we find in Christianity. They thought Jesus to be dead on the Cross, but he had risen from the grave. It is also the lesson from the Beatitudes. The weak will be strengthened. The poor will have their treasures filled. The helpless baby is the real, wise king.
Insecurity filled the inner recesses of Herod’s soul. He no longer thought clearly about his actions. All he saw mirrored and plastered in his royal palace was him alone, a king with a crown, seated on a royal throne. He underestimated the power of a baby, whose altruism he never foresaw, wrapped in swaddling clothes in a borrowed manger.
Had Herod realized later on what Jesus would teach his disciples that we have to invest in treasures that will last for all eternity, he would have discovered an undying and endless security. Not nest eggs that can rot, possessions that can be stolen, money that could slip easily away from our hands, but the treasure only our human hearts can comprehend.
The wisdom of God is far different from our own, because God’s standards are way loving and forgiving than our own. There was a man who approached God and asked Him, "Lord, up in heaven how much time is a million years?" "Well," God said, "a million years is but a second in heaven." "Oh!" said the man, "and up in heaven how much money is a million dollars?" "Well," said God, "a million dollars is only a penny in heaven." "Great!" said the man. "God, can I have one penny?" "All right," said the heavenly Father. "Just wait a second."
God does not measure us according to the limitations of our world. There will always be somebody who has more, does more, and is better than we are. To God, however, even if we do less, even if we have less and even if we are worse than we have ever been, we are loved and forgiven as we are. This is real wisdom.
When the wise men looked at the child Jesus, vulnerable and helpless, they experienced God showing them that He is in control. When we are disappointed and frustrated, when are at a loss and have failed, when we had been disgraced and fallen from God’s grace, God shows himself as a humble, unprotected, defenseless Savior.
It is this message of love that God communicated to the wise men through the child Jesus. Love means accepting the stubbornness and impatience of a people, who longed and grumbled for a Messiah but whose faith was found wanting when the Savior did come. Love means revealing himself to a world that did not even accommodate him in the comfort of an inn, but lent him the coldness of a cave. Love means forgiving even the sins of a King Herod, a Pontius Pilate and a Judas.
When the wise men beheld the child Jesus, they realized that the happiness in living can only be found in loving. Manipulating and controlling people, exercising ruthless power and dominion, having complete authority and being in charge are not reasons for God becoming one of us. Loving is.
This was Herod’s blunder. This was what the three wise men saw. This is God’s daily manifestation. This is God’s constant epiphany.
8 January 2012