Friday, December 23, 2005

Matthew 2:1-12

The Wise Wife
24 December 2005
Cornerstone Covenant Church

There are lots of wisemen legends that have been perpetuated over the years. For example, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that three kings visited Jesus bearing gifts. It’s just not there!

First of all, they were “magi” or “wisemen” – perhaps astrology scholars – not kings – at least in the technical sense. And nowhere in the Bible does it say that there were three of them. That idea developed because they brought gifts of three kinds -- gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I mean, there could have been two wisemen or a thousand! The Bible just doesn’t say.

Nor does the Bible say exactly when they showed up in Bethlehem with these gifts. The Holy Family was obviously out of the barn by then because Matthew 2:11 says that “On coming to the HOUSE, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

Although, nowhere in any of the gospels is a barn mentioned either – only a manger – and in first century Judah it was not uncommon to allow the animals into the house at night. So there were often mangers inside houses or certain rooms in the houses.

What seems clear is that there were not any guestrooms available so Joseph and Mary ended up some place near a feeding trough for animals and that’s where the newborn Jesus ended up – in a manger.

Anyway, that is a bit of a bunny trail because I really want to talk about the magi or wisemen tonight – and even more specifically the wife of one of the wisemen.

Now of course, that’s going to raise all kinds of red flags for some of you – people scrambling through their Bibles right now to find mention of a wise wife in the Christmas story.

Besides no one has ever seen a Christmas card with a wiseman traveling through the moonlight following yonder star – with a wife wrapping her arms around a wiseman’s waist – motorcycle mamma style.

I for one have never seen such a card and don’t really expect to – although – maybe some enlightened person – an artist – someone with true imagination will realize that it was probably so.

Think about it.

No, a wise wife is not mentioned in the Bible – at least not directly. But you know that there had to be at least one there. How else would it have been that the magi would have stopped in Jerusalem to ask for directions? Would the men have done that on their own? Maybe – just maybe one lone man might do such a thing – not likely but possibly. But if you get two or three or more guys together – it’s even less likely that they’ll stop for directions. No one wants to appear like he doesn’t know where he’s going – especially in front of other guys.

And how else would these supposedly wisemen have known what to bring as baby gifts? Men don’t go to baby showers.

We men know absolutely nothing about what kind of baby gifts are appropriate in any given situation. For all we know, women still give each other gold, frankincense, and myrrh at baby showers – although I’m certain it’s all more processed and sold in the infants department at Mervyns – and then it’s all rolled up in cutesy pink or blue wrapping paper with frilly bows – even if it’s for a boy.

So, if you’re reading between the lines – as you should be – you would know that at least one of the wisemen brought along his wife.

So here is how I think this thing may have happened – or most likely did happen – or actually I’m pretty sure it happened just this way.

Annie, had gone out to dump the garbage when she noticed the strange and amazing star in the West. “Gaspar come out here and take a look at this!” she hollered back into the house.

“Just a minute, dear! The Niners have three yards and it’s third down,” came the reply from the living room.

A few minutes later the dejected twenty-something magi emerged from the house – “They choked again...he moaned.”

He looked up to where Annie was pointing. “Wow, that’s cool,” he exclaimed. “Something special is going on over there.”

He pulled out his cell phone and sent text to his buddies Baltshar and Melchior.

“Don’t you think you guys ought to go check it out?” Annie asked him.

"Probably," said her magi husband. "But we’ll have to see if we can fit it in. Balts and Mel (who were the two single Magi) have both got dates tomorrow night. And remember, we’re going up to my parent’s cabin this weekend – a little fishin and little – la la la"

"Oh stop that..." Annie nudged him back. "We’ve – I mean you’ve got to go on this quest. I mean this is something special – really special. I can feel it. There has never been anything like this before."

Gaspar sent off a few more texts – and a few minutes later said – "Okay – it’s arranged. We leave first thing in the morning. I’ve got to go check the camel. Maybe you could pack my bag."

"Gaspar," she batted her eyes. "What would you think if maybe I went along, too? I need to get out of here. Your mother is driving me nuts. I don’t want to go shopping with her again – and everything is so crowed at the mall at this time of the year. And besides you guys are magi – you aren’t cooks."

"You’ve got a point there. But it might be a long dangerous quest. I’m not sure that it’s the kind of thing a woman should take on."

She gave him that look.

So when the three wisemen converged at the meeting spot very early the next morning to begin their trek west – Annie was up there with Gaspar on the back of the family camel.

Balts and Mel said absolutely nothing about it. For they had known Annie from as long as Gas – and they knew that there was only one way things were going to work out. Besides, they reasoned. She saw the star first.

So for days and days the four of them – the magi and the wise wife followed the star across the desert – mostly traveling at night and napping in the day – and Annie cooking for all of them. For as everyone knows wisemen may be wise – but they don’t cook. So they wisely marry cooks.

Two weeks into the journey they arrived in the land of Judah – and the star suddenly disappeared. The night that it vanished the three magi looked at one another with extreme befuddlement. What next? “I don’t remember anything about disappearing stars in astrology school,” said Balt.

“You guys are so dense,” said Annie. "Can’t you see that the star was meant to lead us here to this very place and now it’s gone. So we have to ask for directions."

“Directions? Directions to what?” – moaned a slightly weary Gaspar. “Well, obviously, something special is happening in Judah. What did you guys learn about Judah in your world history classes?”

“Well, ahhhh?” They all three knew that they had studied the Hebrew people who lived in Judah – but none of them remembered much about them. For they were really an obscure – pretty insignificant people at that point in history. Of course, they had been a great regional power hundreds of years prior but that was pretty short-lived.

Mel took out his phone and began to peck at the tiny keypad – bringing up Google – the original beta. He typed in “Judah” and was sent to the Wikipedia article which summarized the history – the Covenant with Abraham – the promises made to David and his decedents – a king forever.

“That’s it!” exclaimed Mel, with characteristic wisdom. “This is all about a King of the Jews. The king of the Jews must have been born. Why else would there be such a brilliant star?”

“Does it say anywhere in there where this king is suppose to be born?” asked Annie.

“I’m sure it does” said Mel. “But the rest of the article is in Hebrew and I can’t read that funny block writing.”

“Well, do the translator,” said Balt.

“I tried” explained Mel. “But it’s still in beta, too, and it doesn’t do Hebrew yet. What are we going to do?”

The three men stood there looking at each other for a few minutes – and finally when she could stand it no longer, Annie piped in.

“Maybe we could stop over at one of those houses and ask for directions. Someone around here is sure to know where the King of the Jews is suppose to be born.

Gasp. They all looked at her as though she was suggesting that round is square or that up is down.

She rolled her eyes and slide off the back of the camel and walked over to a house and knocked hard on the door.

The woman of the house, the only person there, didn’t know the answer to the question. So she directed the travelers to the market.

But after a few hours of asking the same question to everyone and noone knowing the answer, they sat down next to the well in frustration – unsure of what to do next.

But then a contingent of homeland security agents showed up. Exotic eastern foreigners asking questions that might affect national security do not go unnoticed by the government. And the agents whisked them off to King Herod’s palace.

And once inside they explained the whole story. The agents briefed the King.

Now, you have to understand that King Herod was not only cunning – but he was also paranoid. And when he heard that the magi and wife were looking for the new king – he summoned them – along with all of his own scholars. And they figured out together that there was a prophecy that the King of the Jews would be born in a small town not far from Jerusalem -- Bethlehem – the family home of King David.

So, the king, suggested to the magi that they might go Bethlehem – find this baby – and then if they reported back, he, too, could recognize him for who he is.

Great idea, thought the Magi – Annie didn’t like him - too slimy – but the magi were in a rush to get on with the journey. For it was getting late in the day – and soon it would be dark out.

“What are you guys going to do when you find the baby king?” Annie asked?

What do you mean, what are we going to do? We’re going to see him.

“No, what about gifts” she exclaimed. You don’t just show up at the home of a newborn without baby gifts – and especially a king!"

The three men looked at each other – totally clueless as to what she was talking about – for they were wisemen – with the emphasis on MEN.

“Look,” she said, “you’ve got some gold in the pack. Gold is always appropriate. And perhaps we can stop along the way and pick up some spices.”

Which is exactly what they did at the market on the way out of town. Annie did the shopping – buying frankincense and myrrh – the most exotic and valuable of spices that the vendor had.

And then they were on their way again – moving quickly along the rugged five mile path south of Jerusalem. And as it darkened – the star once again appeared – a directional beam which hovered over the small town – and then a small house.

And there, the three wisemen and the wise wife dismounted – knocked on the door – and were invited into the house – where for the first time foreigners met and fell down venerating the king of the Jews – the King of Kings. They presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh

Well, you know the rest of the story – a dream which one of the magi had, warned them to return home without stopping to check-in with King Herod – for he really was a nasty dude – not at all wanting to acknowledge another King of the Jews.

After the Holy Family escaped to Egypt Herod went into Bethlehem and slaughtered all the little boys in town – just hoping that he might get the one the magi had discovered but failed to report.

The part you probably don’t know is that the wisemen and the wisewoman returned East – their lives changed forever by that journey and the one moment when they brought their baby gifts to the newborn king.

After that point nothing seemed all that important – the 49ers, the vacations, the mall...

Gaspar and Annie had five children. And every year during summer vacation they packed the kids up and did an annual family camel trek across the desert to visit king Jesus’ family in Egypt – then in Nazareth – I mean, it got to the point that they were no longer seen as foreigners – but as family themselves.

That’s really the point of Christmas anyway – that through the birth of a baby – the baby welcomed by wisemen and wisewomen – the boundaries of the world collapse and we all move from being foreigners to family members. This is true of all wisemen and all wisewomen who make their way to the baby who was born King of the Jews.

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