No Shepherds, angels, or manger in this story. Rather we have non- Jewish astrologer/magicians from perhaps the Tigris Euphrates area who follow a gps star but veer off the route and end up in Jerusalem. They ask a ruthless paranoid king who does whatever it takes to hold onto the power, about a new king of the Jews. When Herod was “troubled” so was everyone else in the capital. He summoned the authorities of the Jews and they found in the ancient book of Micah a clue. A ruler would come out of Bethlehem. Bad news for Bethlehem. Herod enlists the naïve foreigners in a plan to find this perceived threat to himself. He claims he wants to worship the new king too.
The Magi were happy to be back on track with the gps star and ended up at a house in Bethlehem, where they did indeed worship the new king, Jesus. They offered him gold, frankincense and myrhh, gifts befitting royalty.
In the gospel reading for Epiphany the story ends too soon. Warned in a dream the Magi head home avoiding Jerusalem. The angel of the Lord also gives a heads up to Joseph, and the couple with their son Jesus, creator and savior of the universe, become refugees finding safety in Egypt a foreign land.
Then comes the horror. Herod orders troops to search and kill all male children in Bethlehem and environs from 2 years of age and under.
There are plenty of refugees, and murderous paranoid despots throughout history who will do whatever it takes to hold onto power. But this story is not intended to be read as an allegory. The other Christmas story simply takes place in the real world and carries with it the message that God is Immanuel, always with us, not only in a romantic candle lit silent night, but God came to save through His Son amidst the screams, bloodshed and darkness.
It’s into such darkness that the prophet Isaiah called “Arise shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” We, upon whom light of Christ has shined, are called to get up and reflect that light into the world in which darkness seems to hold sway. We are not to be part of the darkness, but a light which attracts those who sit in the darkness but mistakenly think that they are light.
There maybe a cost to being that light reflector, for the one who is light also paid the cost on a cross in the darkness of a Friday afternoon.