The Magi, the Wise Men, the Kings of the East, are the witnesses to the Incarnation of Christ in Matthew’s Gospel and his version of the birth of Jesus.
In Luke’s version, it’s the shepherds who are the first to witness the birth of Jesus. The little people; the people who were always there, but not noticed by anyone.
In the Gospel of Matthew, it is the Magi who recognise Jesus for who He is. People who are rich and important, but also outsiders and strangers.
Matthew contrasts these well-travelled, well informed, educated strangers with the person who should have seen who Jesus was, but didn’t, Herod.
As the leader of a people who longed for the Messiah, Herod should have been the first to know that the new king had been born, and the first to pay Him homage.
But, like many of us today, he doesn’t see what’s under his nose. Not only is he ill-informed about the existence and whereabouts of the new king, he is frightened and threatened by the news that these strange visitors bring.
St Luke has Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem because of a Roman census, and the shepherds witness a recent birth in a stable.
In St Matthew’s account, Mary and Joseph are in their own home in Bethlehem and Jesus could be anything up to two years old.
There is none of the wonder of a new birth; it’s just an ordinary, everyday scene. Apart that is, from the well-travelled strangers bearing kingly gifts.
What the Magi didn’t find in a grand palace, in Herod’s throne room, they find in an ordinary house among ordinary people; the true king of Israel.
By rights it should have been different.
The king of Israel should have been seen and recognised and worshiped by His own people.
But, for one reason or another (and best known to God Himself) it took a group of outsiders to respond to a strange sign and travel from distant countries, to find the one true Messiah, living unrecognised among His people.
Has the isolation of the past year in lockdown dimmed our eyes to seeing Christ in our familiar daily world?
It could be that we too need a new way to look at a familiar situation, or a creative solution to a problem that threatens to overwhelm us.
Whichever it is, we need to find Christ in the solution.
We need the insight of the Magi, a fresh pair of eyes to look at the problem and to provide a different perspective.
For some of us, we may actually need a different pair of eyes to see an answer;
We may need to ask for help from a friend or from a professional.
For others, it may be that what we need is a break, or even an hour of quiet to think about something else.
Whatever the right thing for each of us, Matthew’s message for us all is that hope is there, right in the midst of us.
We just need the eyes to see it.