The Wise Men: Heroes of the Faith
Yesterday was Epiphany day. So it is good that we celebrate Epiphany Sunday today. The early church celebrated January 6 to commemorate the birth of Jesus and his baptism. Its significance was diminished when Dec. 25 was then celebrated as the birthday of Jesus. However, the Greek and Eastern Orthodox churches recovered this holiday, thus they celebrate Christmas on January 6, and the western church continued to celebrate January 6 as the coming of the three wise men.
So let me invite you today to reflect on the message of the three wise men, the actors of this important Christian holiday. If we are looking for a hero of your Christian faith, the example of the wise men could be an invitation for us to model our Christian faith this year.
They were wise, and I would again say, they were heroes of the Christian faith. How can this be? Let us consider it together.
These wise men saw vision, and acted on it!
They were excited about it, thus they acted on their vision that came to them. It is conceivable that others have seen what they saw. In fact the story of Mathew proves it, when Herod asked the priests if they knew about it; where will it happen, the priest and the scholars of Jerusalem told Herod that the child will be born in Bethlehem. This means that the religious leaders of Jewish faith knew about this vision, but they were neither excited nor interested to have it happen. In fact they were indifferent, they did nothing about it. That is why these religious leaders lost to history while the wise men are remembered year after year and many sermons and messages were given about their vision and faith.
They were wise because they acted on their vision and more so they persevered till it happened and fulfilled. It was not easy for them to realize their vision. They had to diligently search and study the scriptures and the movement of the stars. It took them two years of study and journey together to realize their vision. In fact they were not ashamed to ask Herod and the religious leaders for help about the vision they saw.
Do you have a spiritual vision given to you by the Lord? If you have, you are blessed! But let me ask you, what are you doing about it? Are you acting on it for its realization? The religious leaders at that time also saw the vision seen by the wise men, but they were neither interested nor excited and worse they did not act on it. They lost the vision and missed the blessing. They were supposed to be there in that first Christmas event, but were not present because though they have the vision, they did not act on it.
There is a park in Atlanta Georgia dedicated to a man who had a vision of freedom. During a meeting I had three years ago in Atlanta we visited that park and heard voice tape the Baptist pastor named Martin Luther King Jr. which he delivered during a rally, on August 28, 1963:
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners; will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live on a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of god’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
His vision was realized at the cost of his life. Today the Americans consider him a hero of all the faith community in the USA and celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day every March 15.
Secondly, the men were wise, and become heroes of the faith, because they realized the importance of worship.
They were not there to see and talk, they were there to worship. Because they gave priority to worship, time and distance were not a hindrance. Not even work and their profession hindered them to realize the worship they had been longing for. History tells us that Christian heroes of the faith have given the same importance to worship risking their lives for it. For what is the meaning of worship? It is the orientation of life God-ward. It is coming just as we are with our limitations, failures, confusions, doubts, fear, grief, and sins, and turning ourselves God-ward, seeking with His cleansing, His light, His love and His direction. Consider yourself and reflect what could be the reasons why we miss worship? Of course you may name a number of them. I know that to you these reasons are important, but if you dig deeper, could it be that the main reason is that you lack the importance of worship in your own life?
Thirdly, these men were wise and became heroes of the faith because they knew the importance of their gift to the work to the kingdom of God.
They did not come to worship empty handed. In fact the wise-men had prepared their gift before starting the journey. These men offered themselves first, then their gold, frankincense and myrrh. That is money and money’s worth. In fact these three gifts were all in support to Christ mission work. The gold I believe was used by his parents for his needs and scholarship to prepare him in the ministry. The frankincense was used as a perfume in temple worship and sacrifice- to signify his priesthood to us. The myrrh was used to embalm the bodies of the dead, thus such gift signifies his death as a sacrifice for all. In short all the gifts given by the wise-men were in support for Jesus all his life. If they were not there, and if they have not given their mission support, Christianity may have remained as just a local sect of the Judaism, and Jesus Christ a local God of the Jews. Because of their presents and their gifts, we are Christian today! In short their gifts were given but it was used to convert their kind to Jesus, gentile like us.
Your gifts to the life and mission of Jesus, is also very important and necessary today. Keep on your habit and desire of giving your gifts to the Lord. The joy that comes to you when you know that God’s vision for the world through Christ is realized may not valued in material things but surely it will be pleasing to God.
Do you have a spiritual vision my friend? If not just yet, catch it on, listen He may be speaking to you, but you have not been listening, when you have it, what are you doing about it? Have your worship and gifts become an instrument to make it happen.
How large a portion of it for things related to God, or to the realization of the vision of God has given to you? When you finish this exercise ponder upon these words of Mathew ‘What does a man benefit, if he gains the whole world but looses his own soul’ (Mathew 16:26)
Think about it my brothers and sisters! 2013 may be a God given opportunity to catch up with your lost opportunities of realizing your vision that God has given unto you!
The three wise-men are good models for us to consider as heroes of the faith. What they did for the Lord and his mission are challenges for us to follow!
By: Rev. Francisco B. Bilog