Today, dear friends, our Christmas Creche becomes complete. The beloved scene of the birth of Jesus welcomes the three Magi who come from the East, a far off distant land to pay homage to this baby, the King of the Jews. The early Christian community where Matthew lived was made up of Jewish converts. For them Matthew’s Gospel of the birth of Jesus would remind them of the birth of the great liberator of the Jews, Moses the prophet. But the significance of the three Magi lifts their eyes and broadens their vision to the fulfillment of a hope that goes beyond the limits of Judea and a promise that transcends the history of Israel.
What Isaiah prophesied is answered with the birth of this baby who is greater than even Isaiah’s dream. Rise up in splendor, o Jerusalem, Your light has come; the glory of the Lord shines upon you…Nations shall walk by your light and kings by your shining radiance. All true today as the Magi, following the star come to the little house in Bethlehem and saw the child with Mary his mother, They prostrated themselves and did him homage and they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These three Magi represent all humankind. All the ends of the earth have now seen the salvation of God! No longer is salvation limited to Judea or to the Chosen people. The birth of Jesus is light to the nations and salvation for all humankind. The birth of Jesus from Mary in a Bethlehem stable is the birth of God’s loving plan for all peoples and all nations. Pope St. Leo the Great tells us, Let the whole pagan world enter into the family of the patriarchs…In the three Magi let all the nations worship the Author of the universe; and let God be known, not in Judea alone but throughout the whole world, so that everywhere his name be great and we can proclaim Jesus is the Lord!
Earlier I called attention to Matthew’s Jewish Christian community of faith in Jesus and how they would hear echoes in their hearts of the birth of Moses. And that is true. Yet they knew by faith that the birth of Jesus is the beginning of a new creation and that life in Christ is never limited to one people, one nation, one group. The Magi symbolize all of humanity called to worship the new born King born of Mary, the mother of Divine Mercy. Yet these are only three men come from afar. They set the stage for the future.
That future we find at the end of Matthew’s Gospel after his resurrection from the dead when the Risen Christ summons the eleven disciples, including Matthew, to Galilee to be with him there. Matthew describes the moment: The eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him they worshipped but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth is given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I command you. And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age’!
See how those beautiful moments at the birth of Jesus come to their fruition when this child born of Mary fulfills his destiny and by his cross and resurrection redeems the whole world! See how those three Magi were heralds of a future promise that comes from God, not from them. All the nations will come to me. All will enter my House for it is a house of prayer for all nations! See how those eleven disciples, including Matthew came to believe beyond their original doubts and thus accepted the command of Jesus to bring his message to the whole world, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and doing so with confidence because Jesus promises to be with them until the end of the age!
My dear friends, as we gaze at the Christmas crèche and say a prayer for ourselves, our families, our loved ones, our concern as disciples of Christ cannot end with ourselves and those who are like us. Our gaze must go from the Bethlehem stable, beyond the three Magi to the whole world which those three represented that day in Bethlehem. Our charge comes from Jesus himself who made us his disciples by baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. We are the ones who today must give witness that He is the savior of the world, that he holds they keys to life and life eternal and that we, like Matthew, Peter, John and the holy women of old, all have received the charge and all are called to be witnesses to Christ in His Church for the salvation of the whole world, everyone, you, me, those we know, those we do not know, those whom we will never know!
Today I invite us all to learn from the Magi and from Matthew, learn the lesson of the child Jesus who is born one like us to make us one like him. Hear the command of that same Jesus to be ourselves faithful disciples, inviting others to come and know him, come and learn from him, come and let him embrace you as he has embraced everyone born into this world. St. Paul is right: There are no more Jews and Greeks. We are one in Christ Jesus. You, I, the gentiles, all peoples of the world are coheirs, members of the same body and co partners in Christ Jesus through the gospel, the good news that Jesus our brother has saved us and all humankind because he is the Savior of the World!