Everyone does his best thinking on the way home from the meeting.”
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. – Matthew 2:1-12 [NRSV]
“Everyone does his best thinking on the way home from the meeting,” he said. His appearance was anything but GQ haute. He wore a one piece cotton overall jump suit that late fall of 1985. He sat on the table in front of the group of pastors as he led our three day workshop, The Pastor as Professional Leader. “My version of reality…” was another of his favorite expressions. But Lyle Schaller nailed it with that comment, “Everyone does his best thinking on the way home from the meeting.”
We’re not told what the magi were thinking about as they departed from Bethlehem. There is no known record of their conversations, conclusions, or concerns. But surely they did have some things to ponder. Was the trip worth it? Why was Herod so troubled? What will this king’s future reign be like? What are we going to tell the people back home? Will they believe us? Haven’t they already written us off as foolish men, following contrived celestial signs? I don’t think they went home with the same heart as they left. And I believe it surely must have been a newly revived heart of hope and joy.
We meet Jesus through his word, in our encounters with his people, and at the table and the font. He has manifest himself as the True King, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is worthy in every way to receive honor, glory, power, and dominion over all things. His rightful place is at the right hand of God most high. He alone deserves the center and most cherished place in our hearts.
Coming away from that meeting, what are we thinking? What worries us? Jesus is King. What discourages us? Jesus rules. What gives us joy? Jesus is Lord. For what do we hope? Jesus will come again. How can we stand before God? Jesus is interceding for us. What will people think of our encounter with Jesus when we tell them? Jesus grants his people peace.
Maybe we need to consider our trips to and from our Jesus encounters. One of my favorite parts of the baptismal service is the phrase, “May your coming in and your going out be blessed from this time forth, and forevermore” (cf. Psalm 121:8). That implies that we are to be intentional about coming to meet Jesus, and thoughtful and thankful for his blessings as we are on our way home from the meeting.
I really love this statement. I believe it is beautifully revealing of the open readiness of these human hearts.
“And I believe it surely must have been a newly revived heart of hope and joy.”
What other response could the heart of man have when he is compelled to follow a magnificent star to cradle of an infant and worship him … “they were overwhelmed with joy.”
I’d love to know the answers to the other questions, but the visits of the magi and of the shepherds warm my heart so. They were people like us, finding their God and delighting in having found true treasure.