And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:12
I’m moved by Shannon Weston’s post about Epiphany from a few years back. Her point is that it’s curious that the Wise Men – after bringing gifts to the baby Jesus and being warned in a dream not to report back to Herod – chose to leave “for their own country by another road.” James Taylor even wrote a song about this detail.
It’s curious because the Magi could have made other choices:
- They could have helped the Holy Family escape, perhaps to their own home countries.
- They could have gone to to Rome and reported the truth about Herod. Yes, he builds things, but he’s a bloodthirsty ruler.
- They could have returned to Herod but thrown him off track. “Your Majesty, they’ve headed north to Phoenicia!”
But instead they went home by another way. In other words they took the easy way out.
What happened next? The Holy Family became refugees in Egypt. All Israelite boys under age two were slaughtered throughout Palestine. This could have been avoided if the Magi had taken responsibility to serve their neighbors, if they had been brave.
As a theologian, I can make the case that God’s plan involved the escape to Egypt and the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15. God clearly works even (and especially?) when human beings are on the wrong side of history.
But on Epiphany 2021 when there are still people fleeing for their lives, when there are still innocents being sacrificed, imagine what it might look like if we could be brave. Instead of returning home after coming face to face with evil, after learning that people are in danger, imagine if we stepped up and helped them. We don’t merely return to our homes and lock the doors. We serve those in need as if they were the Holy Family.
Imagine. Imagine being not only wise, but also being faithful in 2021.
Image is The Wise Men by JC Leyendecker (1874-1951)