‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.’ (Matthew 2:1-3)
In the celebration of Christmas, with its feasting and carols and gifts, Matthew’s account of the arrival of the Magi reminds us that the Nativity was a thoroughly disturbing event. It disturbed those in positions of power by calling time on earthly conceptions of rule, and it disturbed the whole city of Jerusalem, whether by challenging the complacent or by reminding some that God had not forgotten them, thereby awakening slumbering hopes of the coming Messiah. The Magi themselves had been disturbed, and had sought out its cause, worshipping the One who had disrupted their settled lives and ancient wisdom, whereas Herod sought to silence the disturbance and remove its sharp challenge. Christians regularly face the common temptation to domesticate the gospel, and remove its challenging elements, but Jesus Christ and His message cannot be separated from the disturbing consequences of its good news. In this new year may we be confronted with the disturbing gospel again, and let us be like the Magi who seek him out in worship and self-giving, rather than Herod.