Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent Reflections on the Magi: A Perfectly Good Waste of Time

After Jesus was born . . . Magi from the east came to Jerusalem (Matt. 2:1).

On the way into work this morning I was honked at twice. The first time I deserved it. I’ll not go into details, but the honker was within their honking rights. The second time was unnecessary. I was a little slow moving at a green light. The person behind me quickly concluded that I needed some encouragement. That one bothered me.

In addition to being honked at twice I’m very much aware of the fact that I nearly honked at other less competent drivers at least twice on my commute this morning - maybe three times. Again, details aren’t important. I’m also aware that the persons at whom my honks would have been directed were doing what I apparently did to someone else. They were impeding my progress, slowing me down, getting in the way.

I was reminded this morning that we’re all in such a hurry. To be deterred in the least is a terrible injustice in Atlanta. We’ve got to keep moving. I saw it in others around me. And most importantly I saw it in myself.

Yesterday a friend told me that she and her husband would be reading the scripture and lighting the advent candle in their church worship service this weekend. She shared this with obvious delight and just a touch of disbelief.

A few years ago she went to church here and there but her husband rarely went at all. About two years ago they tried a church that I had told her about not far from their home. Her husband started going with her. A few months ago he was baptized. And this Sunday they’ll play a role in leading worship.

“That’s called conversion,” I said when she told me what they were doing. She agreed with me that it didn’t happen quickly. What she and her husband will do this weekend was years in the making.

For all our hurrying, there are some things that simply will not be rushed. The journey to Jesus is one of those things.


The story of the Magi is in many ways a mirror of what happens every Christmas. The details have changed. Gone are the camels that we assume bore the three kings and their gifts. We know what gold is, but frankincense and myrrh rarely show up under our trees or in our celebrations.

The piece of the story that gets played out over and over is that somewhere, somehow people are slowly making their way toward Jesus. Even in a place like Atlanta, this is a journey that can’t be rushed.

Some have been en route for years. Others take a first step by reluctantly showing up at church. Whatever the journey looks like, the Spirit of God is working. Powerful Herod could not derail the Magi. He couldn’t lay claim to their trip and use it for his own advancement. The long journey to Jesus would not be stopped or hindered or thwarted.

Maybe you know someone who is making their way toward Jesus this Christmas. Maybe that someone is you. Take your time. This is God’s work, and God works in ways that we may not understand. Ask your questions – just as the Magi did. But keep following the star that prompted you to begin moving in the first place.

This is sometimes a long slow journey. But what seems so slow to us is the Spirit’s way of leading to Jesus – and that’s a perfectly good waste of time.

Draw us to yourself this Christmas, O Christ. Keep us moving, even if slowly. Guard us from being impatient with you and your Spirit. Forgive our tendency to set your schedule and dictate plans. Cause us to become humble followers, we pray. Amen.

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