Tuesday, January 5, 2016

3 Reflections on Epiphany - Reflection #2 – Journeying Together

There is some significance in the number of magi who came to Judea. I am not talking about the number three, that number is never specifically mentioned in Matthew's account – tradition simply assumes this because of the three gifts. The group of magi could have been larger, for example the Syriac church tradition has twelve magi making the journey to Bethlehem. The important thing for the point I would like to make is that there were simply more than one. We know this for sure because the Greek word (magi) is a plural form, hence the English translation “wise men”.

It struck me this year that the magi were a group - a group who most likely discussed and planned together, then traveled together, and ultimately worshiped together. It is that communal aspect of the magi’s journey that I noticed in particular this year. I saw it as another example of the communal nature of the Christian faith. There is wisdom in making our journeys of faith with others. In community we can provide support and companionship for one another. In community we have access to a wider perspective and broader understanding when seeking to discern meaning. In community our joys are multiplied, and our sorrows divided. In community we experience relationship, which is central to faith. The Christian faith places relationship with God through Jesus as the foundation to everything else. The way we live our lives grows from that relationship with God to impact how we relate to others around us. The magi, by arriving as a group, suggest that this will be about ‘God and us’, not ‘me and God’.

This late 19th century painting by James Tissot, called “The Journey of the Magi” is one of my favourite because it shows the whole community that was needed for such a journey. Not only do we have the magi, but many others in the camel train. Perhaps there were cooks and labourers, soldiers for protection and herders for their knowledge of the animals. This painting depicts people with a diverse range of backgrounds all making the journey to honour the Christ child. Tissot’s painting reminds us that Jesus was born for all humanity, not just the powerful and mighty.

This insight, which grew out of my pondering the story of the magi this year, is a reminder to myself that a community of faith is important. We need to resist the lure of a culture that raises the individual above all else, a society that places personal preference as more important that what’s best for the whole. Even the wise and mighty magi knew the value of journeying together – we should not forget that lesson.

No comments:

Post a Comment