…a student asked me yesterday.
Well, that’s a good question. The evangelist Matthew speaks about „magoi from the east“ who were lead by a star and came to Israel to worship the newborn king, and to bring to him gold and frankincense and myrrh. Even later the opinion gains acceptance that they should have been three. Tertullian spoke in the third century first about them as kings, the legenda aurea declared them as astrologers, philosophers and wizards. Probably they were priests from Media. The German Bible translation „Einheitsübersetzung“ chooses „astrologers“, Luther „wise men“ and the Bible in fair language („Bibel in gerechter Sprache“) „royal magicians“ as translation.
If astrologers or kings – what makes the difference?
Astrologers and magicians often were close counsellors of kings and other rulers and co-determined the politics through their advices. According to the king whom they were serving they could get great powers or they were hardly sure about their own lives. But usually they depended from the king and his goodwill.
On the other hand kings were the ones who decided, who made use of advice, who exerted power, who often accumulated a fortune.
Perhaps the folk who first listened to that story asked how dependent counsellors – even if they were royal ones – possessed the independence and the fortune to undertake such a long journey and than make such precious gifts to a child: Gold was the most valuable noble metal and payment method, frankincense is even today an appropriate present for one’s host for a sheikh in Saudi Arabia, and myrrh was a remedy, part of the anointing oil for the anointing of sacred places and persons and for the embalmment of the dead and was a component of perfumes. Could astrologers indeed possess such riches?
But perhaps it was even the encounter with the newborn which made them kings: They move off because the saw an exceptional emergence at the sky and followed it a long way, certainly it was full of hardships. Perhaps they were here and there repeatedly discouraged and doubted to continue the journey which leads them so far from the realm they were used to into districts which were completely unfamiliar to them. But something drove them to continue that journey and to find their unknown designation. Whilst the journey they were seekers for a long time. How may they have felt as they suddenly discovered that they have found their designation? That the child in the poor manger indeed was the designation for what they have left their homeland and went on for months, ways of loneliness, hunger, thirst, and darkness?
They must have made there an experience which made that moment very special for them. They discovered that they were there at this inconvenient place at the designation of their journey, that from this child emanated something special, that it was that child to whom they wanted to give their gifts. It must have been a moment full of magic. The magicians who otherwise enchanted other people now were enchanted by the divine presence in that child. And that changed everything. They were no longer seekers, but have founds. That divine child gave them a part of heaven as a gift and makes the seekers in this way to kings.
What about us?
Do we walk the ways of another who leads our acting, who rules our ways?
Or do we have the courage to follow our own star, to go a troublesome way, to let us be enchanted and to become finally king of our own life?