The first thing I remember reciting in a Christmas play when I was the perfect Sunday school child from that nonChristian family was the story of the magi in Matthew 2 in the KJV. “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him….” The story has “troubled me” in a good way ever since. When I was becoming a full-on Christian in college, my professor gave me an impossible solo movement of a song to sing in a competition that recited the same thing. “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.” The answer to me then, and now, “He is born in you and all around you; look at the signs.”
I feel a special admiration for the mysterious visitors from the East who found Mary and Joseph and offered gifts to the newborn king. I still am thrilled to see the star “standing over where the young child is.”
I realized this week that I have heard rather improbable stories from three magi in my own life right now. I want to tell you about them, like Matthew wanted to tell the story about the first magi who sought out Jesus. My comrades are seeking the newborn king and offering treasures in their own ways; they are writing the nativity story for 2012.
Howard was out on the street yesterday with his well-worn sign that says, “Tell me your story.” He got rained on and didn’t get too many takers so he started back down Broad St. feeling a bit discouraged. Then he met the pastor of Isaiah Beard’s church at 18th and Federal who told him all about the life of an inner city pastor of a small church. The man was so encouraging that Howard’s spirit was lifted. Then he met a woman who was a recovering meth addict who was on her way to Circle Thrift. Her longsuffering mother had told her to go to “Circle church.” Howard said he would accompany her. “When he saw the star, he rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
Ben told a story in the PM when he spoke on the second Sunday of Advent that people are still talking about. He was on the job as a chaplain at Jefferson Hospital when a woman came to give birth in a very high-risk situation. The doctors had very little hope she would survive the process. But he and the family prayed that she would survive her mysterious neurological event when the doctors took the baby by c-section. Her mother and grandmother in particular demanded that God answer their prayer: “We declare it done in your name, Lord.” He longed with all his heart that the baby would live and the family would rejoice. The baby was delivered healthy and he got to meet the father in the nursery before he left for the day. But he couldn’t leave the event at work; he texted his colleague to find out about the mother. The reply read, “She’s fine” – even though the doctors had said she would die. It was a miracle. “He departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”
I was at the Christmas gathering for our main leaders, the BW Cell Leaders and Apprentices. I had a rare time to talk with Maggie in the kitchen as we ate morsels from the mountain of food surrounding us. We got into a discussion about our surprising mutual study of how discoveries in genetics move us to evangelize. How might it be possible that what we believe might actual work back into our genetic development? The research seems to validate that the process of mentalizing actually changes our brain chemistry and neurological formation, even working its way into our DNA. Maggie’s the scientist, the postmodern magi imagining new research projects. It was amazing that she should come from the far reaches of science where she is pointedly and directly told to abandon her faith lest it ruin her career and still bubble over with enthusiasm for science and Jesus right in my kitchen! “When she was come into the house, she saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when she had opened her treasure, she presented unto him her gifts.”
The story of the birth of Jesus is a living story. The magi still come to the manger. He is born in you and all around you; look at the signs.