Today we celebrate the Epiphany! In the Gospel, we hear the story of the Magi in its entirety. They came to Jerusalem searching for the newborn King of the Jews. Herod, who was himself King of the Jews, was naturally disturbed by this information and questioned the Magi. He helps the Magi find Jesus, but asks for them to let him know the exact location of the newborn Jesus. Upon finding Jesus with Mary, they worship Him and give the famous gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Through angelic warning, they return to their country without telling Herod who will eventually become enraged and kill all the boys in Bethlehem under the age of two.
As I read this gospel, I am struck by the reactions of King Herod and the Magi and ask myself what camp I fall into. When the birth of Jesus is revealed by the Magi, the Magi react. When Herod hears about the birth of Jesus, he reacts. In fact, when anyone hears about the birth of Jesus (innkeepers, angels, shepherds, etc) they react. This is why we call it Epiphany, because the birth of God has been revealed. But the key is how do they react? The birth of Jesus impels all of us to react in some way, but do we change our lives to welcome and worship Jesus, or do we push Jesus out of our lives?
The Magi who were likely important men of the East, see the star, and immediately make a journey to visit Jesus. They leave the comfort of their lives, homes, and probably families, to welcome Jesus into the world. In addition, they bring Jesus gifts from their own riches. The Magi’s hearts were softened at hearing about the birth of Jesus and humbly rearranged their entire lives to give Jesus proper welcome and worship. Finding Jesus became the center of their lives. They even redirected their route on the way home to protect Jesus.
Yet when Herod is faced with the birth of Jesus, his heart is hardened. He is unwilling to humbly give up his power, comfort, and throne (that is not rightfully his). He reacts to the point of murder. As Jesus tells us later, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (John 15:18) and “Whoever is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30). Herod would not change his life to accept Jesus, which often leads to resenting Jesus and his kingdom.
When it comes to accepting Jesus, do we rearrange our lives to give Him the worship, gifts, and honor He deserves like the Magi? Or do we shuffle Him aside like the innkeepers? Do we resent Him like Herod? The birth of Jesus is a gift of love to us, but to properly receive that gift, it will change our lives. Are we ready to rearrange our lives for him?