The story of the Magi in Matthew’s gospel is almost as familiar as the Christmas story in Luke 2. I’m preaching on this text on Sunday, so I will try not to repeat to much for those of you who will be with us at Berryton UMC.Some scholars and theologians think that the Magi are spiritual, if not literal, descendants of Daniel and his three famous friends. The idea goes that while the Israelites were in exile in Babylon, after they proved the power of their faith in the Holy One of Israel, they may have taught some of the wise in that area about the Hebrew faith. It is also possible that some of the Israelites who were unable to return from exile were the ancestors of the Magi. These Magi were from the ‘East.’ Usually that is a direction and not a place, but in this case Matthew’s audience would know the history of the Hebrew people with that particular direction. Even if their current oppressors were from the west, the exile to the east and return were fundamental to their faith. We don’t really know how many Magi there were, but because there are three gifts we often think of them as being three in number too. This parallels the three friends of Daniel who survive the fiery furnace, yet another indication that these Magi were not entirely pagan.
I have the opportunity next week to travel to Huntsville, Alabama and participate in a conference at First UMC Huntsville, the church I grew up in. FUMC has invited four of the active UMC clergy who grew up there to come back for a panel discussion titled ‘Raised Right: A Legacy of Faith.’ Along with the New Year and having another child, it has me thinking a lot about legacy. I wonder what kind of faith legacy I am leaving. Will it be strong? Will it be good? I doubt that six hundred years after my life my faith will inspire and encourage people the way Daniel’s faith did the Babylonians, but the Magi remind us that when we follow God it has ripples far beyond what we can see.