What We Learn From the Magi

Matthew 2:1-12


2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,


2:2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”


2:3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;


2:4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.


2:5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:


2:6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”


2:7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.


2:8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”


2:9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.


2:10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.


2:11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Happy Epiphany! We celebrate the bringers of the gifts, those who bow down and worship Jesus, the newborn king. There are lessons we can learn from the Magi – here is a “Top Ten” list.


  1. Use your gifts. The joke is told of one of the Magi complaining that they had agreed to a $20 limit, and yet his colleague brought gold?!?! What God desires of us is to use the gifts we have to do God’s work.
  2. Use your brain. The Magi were not kings, but rather the learned ones of their time. They studied the stars, the books, the stories, and came to the understanding that this star was something very special. They used their minds and didn’t simply head out on blind faith. They didn’t check their brains at the door, so to speak.
  3. Use your feet. Not only did the Magi come to knowledge, but they acted on it as well. They got up and followed the star on a long journey.
  4. Use your best. I’ve shared this one before. A woman called the Butterball Turkey hotline one Thanksgiving and asked if a turkey that had been in her freezer for 25 years was still good. After consulting with others, the operator said that as long as it was frozen solid all that time, it was still okay, but they recommended it not be used. The owner said, “That’s okay, I was going to give it to the church anyway!” God gives us the very best – God’s ONLY son, so that we might have life and have it abundantly. God gives God’s best. In return, may we do the same!
  5. Never ask for anything, except directions! The Magi knew the star signaled a new king in Israel. They were not sure where to find this king, so they stopped in Jerusalem and asked Herod where to find him. They went to where the answers could be found.
  6. Jump for Joy. The Magi, when they saw the star stop over the place where the child was, were overcome with joy. They were so excited, they couldn’t contain themselves. We, too, should not be afraid to share the emotions we feel, to share the joy. It’s called good news for a reason!
  7. The Magi entered, offered their gifts, and bowed down to worship this young king. Their knowledge and actions brought them to one worthy of worship and praise. They didn’t just come to know about the king, they worshipped him as well!
  8. Receive the gift. The Magi offered their gifts, but they also received the gift. Even though they were from the wrong country, the wrong history, and the wrong religious background, they still sought and found the gift!
  9. Focus on the light. The Magi never lost focus of their goal – to follow the star wherever it went. The Quakers have an old saying – it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Jesus is the light of the world, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. That is what we proclaim, and that is where our focus must remain!
  10. Don’t be surprised if your path heads in a new direction. The Magi were warned in a dream to head home in a different direction. God often turns us to head in a new way! The path from the manger is always different than the one that brought us there. This was true for Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi. May we worship the newborn king, and be ready to head in a new way, with new hope, new life, new freedom to follow wherever God leads!


May we heed the lessons of the Magi, and be ready to follow wherever the path may lead, knowing God goes ahead of us, to death, and to life.

Let Us Pray

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among others,

To make music in the heart.


–The Work of Christmas by Howard Thurman


Guide us with your light, O God, to be about the work of Christmas in the days to come. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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