The Journey of the Magi
Sunday 8th December 2013
Rev Charmaine Braatvedt
Today I intend to talk about the value of journeys.
This has been the year of journeys for me.
Earlier this year was a big journey which took Geoff and me right round I took a two month sabbatical which took me on a big journey all the way round the world.
As Geoff and I embarked on that journey, I was keenly aware that journeys not only soak up resources, they also require much planning and preparation.
However, our sabbatical experience also showed me that journeys bring with them wonderful insights and opportunities for new and re-newed relationships and learnings.
These are some of the gifts Journeys bring.
They also bring surprises; a wealth of experiences; some hardships which require resourcefulness, stamina, tenacity and faithfulness on our part.
They bring change and during the course of a journey there is always something to be gained and something that is lost.
So it is that Journeys bring enlightenment and revelation, they take us to new places to visit and where we are visited upon.
Typically journeys lead to a destination and in the course of Journeying to that destination we receive gifts.
Last year my daughter Claire went on a journey to Ghana and she brought me a gift. I unwrapped it and inside the wrapping, I found a gourd. And then unexpectedly inside the gourd I found yet another gift – a nativity scene relating the birth of the Christ child.
Here it is.
As you can see on the outside of this gourd there is a depiction of the Bible story of the Magi:
In this story there are at least three human beings on a journey in search of the messiah.
The Magi whoever they were, kings, priests, scholars, went on a big journey.
Like me they had to prepare for it.
This journey took a huge amount of planning, preparation and resources.
As they went on their way they will have experienced hardship and will have been profoundly changed by their journey.
En route they will have been enlightened, surprised, visited upon and visited until they reached their desired destination, the Christ child.
The Italian composer Minotti wrote an imaginary account of a small part of the epic journey of the Magi. As he reflected on their travels we received a gift from these mysterious travelers, in the shape of the little opera called Amahl and the Night Visitors.
In the story line of this opera, Minotti imagines the Magi stopping overnight on their way to Bethlehem, at the home of a widow and her disabled son, Amahl.
Menotti was asked to recount how he came to write this opera. He explained that in Italy there is no tradition of Santa Claus. The children there believe that they receive their gifts from the Three Kings, the Magi. There the Magi are regarded with the same fond anticipation as Santa Claus is in other countries.
Of his childhood experiences Menotti writes:
“I actually never met the three kings. It didn’t matter how hard my little brother and I tried to keep awake at night to catch a glimpse of the three royal visitors we would always fall asleep just before they arrived.”
Then in adulthood Menotti found himself returning to their story. He was commissioned in 1951 by the National Broadcasting Company to write an opera for television. His deadline was Christmas. He had the equivalent of writer’s block and no useful thoughts came to mind regarding the story line of the opera he had to write.
Then one November afternoon, as he was walking through the rooms of the Metropolitan Museum he chanced to stop in front of a painting of the Magi by Hieronymus Bosch.
As he reflected on the painting, the idea for his opera began to unfold and so it was that the opera Amahl and the Night Visitors was born.
He realized that the Magi had come back once again to bring him a Christmas gift.
Menotti is not the only one that has been inspired by the journey of the Magi.
The story of the Magi has inspired many artists, poets and musicians because there is a universal resonance in the story which operates on a metaphorical level.
In a way the story of the journey of the Magi, symbolizes the wanderings of the human soul in search of God.
Their journey to Christ is also akin to our spiritual journey. Like them, in a figurative way, we experience hardships in life’s journey.
There are hostile conditions which we have to combat. Things happen in our lives which surprise us and startle us and cause us to become introspective.
There are times in our journey when doubt sets in and we wonder about finding meaning in our lives and if we are on the right track.
Sometimes we are required to exercise great leaps of faith in order to keep going.
Yet their story confirms for us the universal truth that the brave and the faithful who embark upon the spiritual journey in search of God, will be rewarded with a discovery of him.
“For all who seek will find and to those who knock, the door will be opened”.
The journey does bear fruit.
Their story confirms for us that our journey will also lead to Christ and it reveals to us that he will indeed be born in our lives if we are willing to make room for him.
Advent is the time for us to make yet another spiritual journey.
If we make adequate preparation, investing our time and our thoughts and our prayerful reflections in Christ who is the destination, we will journey through the next 20 days in December all the way to Christmas, the day when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child.
Along the way we will have opportunities to make new discoveries, receive new revelations about ourselves and about God who journeys with us.
If we make time for Him, His Holy Spirit will lead us through this month and we will visit places in our hearts and ourselves that we may have forgotten were even there.
Every journey brings gifts.
May you embark on a spiritual journey this Advent.
May it prove to be a journey that brings you
- revelations of greater value than the gold of the Magi,
- holy insights as sweet smelling as the frankinsense they offered
- and like the myrrh, may the discoveries you make be life preserving of your faith for all eternity.