In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him, and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.Scripture Reading
Matthew 2:1-4 (NRSV)
The Magi from the East journeying to pay homage the Promised King of the Jews. Hindi sinabi kung saan sila specifically galing. Basta ang clue lang, sila ay Magi from the East. Wala ding sinabing tatlo. Wala ring sinabing mga pangalan. Ayon lang sa extra-biblical tradition nakuha ang mga pangalang Melchior, Balthazar, at Caspar.
According to the speculation based on the historical situation of the time, the term “Magi” is from Persia or Babylon. And then, some historians and biblical scholars speculate that they are from the ancient city of Ctesiphon. So, you can imagine, from that area, nag-travel sila all the way to Judea, Palestine. Sa Jerusalem.
Ano ba ang aral sa kwento ng Magi?
We all have this historical information. God revealed God’s self to the Magi, noong nakita nila si Jesus. Pero ano ba talaga ang lesson niyan right now, for us, and also for the LGBTQIA+?
The journey from January to December is like the journey of the Magi. We begin the year and journey all the way to Christmas, in December 2024.
Like the Magi, we begin the journey today to look for Jesus Christ somewhere out there. The Christian life is to search for Jesus Christ. So, one of the lessons of the story of the Magi is that throughout the year, we are on a journey looking for the Christ child. And part of the journey is that we will journey with our gifts.
The journey of the Magi is excited sila sa journey, but they also practically prepare for the journey.
And that’s the same for us. Yes, we pray for a better year. Yes, we pray for blessings. But we have to prepare with the truth, the fact, that there might be certain challenges and problems that will come our way for 2024.
Sabi nga nila, do not pray for something good, or do not pray for the problem to go away. Pray that you are ready to address and to deal with a problem that will come. Do not pray for the storm to go away, because the natural order of creation is that there will always be storms. But pray that you will be prepared when the storm comes. And that’s the same with 2024. And that’s the same with the journey of the Magi.
It is a journey of finding the promised Christ, even when according to the law, according to the Jewish law, the covenant, we are not worthy and acceptable, because we are Pagans. (The Magi are Pagans. They were not Jewish. They were astrologers, magicians, readers of the signs of heavenly bodies, which according to the Jewish law is forbidden. Such practices in Deuteronomy and Leviticus are called an abomination and detestable before God. It even merits a death penalty.)
It was these astrologers that merited death penalty by the Jewish law, where God revealed the Messiah, the ones who were able to see the Christ child. And that’s the closest thing to us, as LGBTQIA+ people. That even if the covenant deems us as unworthy, God changed God’s mind. And that God revealed God’s self to those that were considered detestable.
And that’s the closest thing for us.
We are closest to the Magi, because, like them, we are considered by others as detestable, abomination. Also worthy of being stoned to death. And yet, like the Magi, the promise is: we are also called to journey, to see the signs, and to journey towards the Christ. We are called to make the journey. We are called to meet the Holy One, kahit na may nagsasabing hindi tayo katanggap-tanggap.
In the journey, we will also meet people like Herod. And we must be discerning and wise enough to see through such people who have other motives and intentions towards us and our journey.
I will tell you another story, also not in the bible. It’s a story inspired by the tradition of the three kings. It’s from short novel written by Henry van Dyke, by the title of “The Other Wise Man” – which is then adapted into a film that is shown during Holy Week.
The story goes that there is a fourth Magi, named Artaban, and he got left behind by the other three Magi. He got left behind because he failed to arrive on time sa kung saan sila magkikita, sa caravan.
Na-delay siya kasi may tinulungan siyang naghihingalo tao. There was a dying person that he helped. (One thing about the Magi – some were considered as healers and physicians.)
He had to sell one of his giftsm, to be able to travel; so that he can buy the provisions that he needs to travel by himself going to Judea Palestine. Pero no’ng dumating sya, finally, sa Bethlehem, nakaalis na ‘yong Holy Family, hindi niya na rin inabutan ‘yong mga kaibigan niya. Papapunta na ng Egypt sina Mary, Joseph at si Jesus.
Mayro’n siyang isang nanay at bata na tinulungan para hindi mapatay, by giving one of his treasures. And then he tried to follow the Holy Family to Egypt. Pero sa kaniyang paghahanap sa Hesus, may natagpuan siyang community ng mga lepers. At nag-stay siya doon para tulungan ang community of lepers.
33 years have passed, at matandang matanda na siya. And then he heard that Jesus was in Jerusalem. Ipapako na sa krus si Hesus. Noong papunta siya sa calvary at pinapako na si Hesus, willing niya ibigay ang kanyang pearl to ransom Jesus. Kaso noong papaakyat siya sa calvary, mayroon siyang nakitang young woman, batang babae, to be sold into slavery, na humingi ng tulong sa kaniya. So nagdalawang-isip siya. Binigay niya na lang ang kanyang pearl to buy the freedom of the young girl.
Heartbroken siya kasi hindi niya nakita si Jesus na ngayon ay patay na, at wala na ang lahat ng treasures niya. Hindi niya rin nagamit ang kanyang treasure to buy the ransom of Jesus.
Mamamatay na din siya. And finally, Jesus appears to him. And Jesus told him: “your gifts are accepted, Artaban.”
And then Artaban asked: “how did you receive my gifts, Lord? I have not seen you until now.”
Jesus responds: “because when I was hungry you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. When I was sick, you were there and you came to me – the lepers. And when I was in prison, you were there.”
Tinanong ni Artaban: “When did I ever feed you, Lord? I have never seen you hungry and fed you. I have never seen you sick and cared for you. I’ve only seen you now.”
And again, Jesus says: “For as much as you have done it to the least of those you have helped, you have done it to me. Your gifts have been accepted.”
And then he dies, with a peaceful and joyful smile. That’s the end of the story.
So as we begin again a journey for 2024, a journey towards Christmas, let us be reminded also that we encounter Jesus with every person we help, care for, and support. Especially strangers. Especially those we meet along the journey. From January to December. The gifts and the preparations we have made must be shared and not kept hidden.
But unlike the fourth Magi, we do not have to journey alone. We do not have to do it by ourselves. We journey together, we meet Jesus together, both in this church community, and in our individual lives.
We meet Jesus when every single week, like today, a new queer child comes to worship. Wounded and confused, because the other churches told them that they are an abomination.
So four lessons in summary:
#1 – though declared unworthy, pagans whose practices are unacceptable, we begin a new journey, like the Magi, to look for Jesus. We prepare for the exciting yet challenging journey of 2024.
#2: The point of the journey is to find Jesus. To seek him out. There is a purpose for the journey. The journey is not an end unto itself. Hindi tayo naglalakbay na chuwariwap dahil gusto lang natin. Kasi sa ating paglalakbay, kung tayo ay Kristiyano, dapat nating tanungin, ang ating sarili: bakit ba at para kanino tayo naglalakbay? And it is for Jesus.
#3: In as much as we will meet good people along the way, we will meet people who need our help. And people who will ask for our help. In as much as may makikilala tayong mga kailangan nating tulungan. May makikilala din tayong mga Herodes. Who will try to manipulate and exploit us. We must be discerning of such people, and not allow ourselves to be used, abused, and exploited. Nor let them derail our journey and purpose of our journey.
#4: While we look forward, while we look far away, and journey towards Jesus, that is somewhere out there, let us not be distracted and remember in the story of the Fourth Magi, that we also meet Jesus throughout the journey. We are to do good to whoever needs our help, as best and as able as we can.
Ang isa pang lesson at gusto ko i-chika for today, makalimutan n’yo man lahat ng sinabi ko. Ang isa pang lesson, fifth lesson from the Magi. Let us be intentionally wise in our life and in our faith. Dapat smart na tayo sa 2024. Like the Magi who are the wise ones. Huwag nang shu-shunga-shunga. Kung naging shunga-shunga ka man before, lalo na sa 2023, dapat you know better in 2024. Tigilan na natin ‘yan, mga accla.
Lahat tayo, we want a better 2024. It can only be achieved if we’re intentionally wiser and smarter – without losing our kindness and gentleness.
It is the same prayer and wish I have for Open Table MCC. We have to continue improving and doing things smarter here. Gaano man kaliit o kabagal, basta moving forward to improving things.
So I end this preaching, but I do not have any new or brilliant quote to end. Except to say, let us be smarter this time around for 2024. Let us be like the Magi – individually, and as a community. Smarter but also kinder. In that way, we meet Jesus, and others meet Jesus through us.