The Magi's Faith Trek

What if they had given up?

Gary Swank is not only pastor of the New Hope Church but also instructor in fine arts at the Regional Educational Alternative Learning School in south Windham. He works daily with youth at risk.

The magi asked, "Where is the king of the Jews?" They were traveling—by faith. Persian astrologers, they were. And Gentiles at that. Somewhere along the way they had come to study the Jewish scripture scrolls, then acknowledge the Hebrew deity as the true God.

In their studies, they converged their astrological vocation with scriptural research--studying the heavens for the throne of God. In that, God spoke to them of the approaching birth of the Hebrew Messiah Christ. God informed them that if they as Gentiles followed the unique star, they would see for themselves the Jewish Anointed One.

Therefore, these fellows acted out their faith. They traveled with their faith in hand and heart. Over the hot sands, to the west, in search of a baby they had never laid eyes on. It was by simple faith that they made their trek.

So it is in your life and mine. We have never laid eyes on Jesus Christ nor seen His resurrected body nor gone to heaven to witness Him as intercessor at the right hand of the Father. But we have researched the scriptures and believe their account to be true. Therefore, from time to time this invisible deity displays Himself in our visible experiences. We, by faith, then come upon the marvelous sight.

Yet in this faith traveling, there are numerous Herods who would stand in the way, attempting to wreck the faith project. They are bloodthirsty, agents of hell, mean to the pits. Such should never surprise the faith child. Jesus promised as much. That is why He told His own to be as wise as snakes and harmless as doves. Wise as snakes!

How interesting that every time heaven breaks through with some marvelous holy extravaganza of love and mercy, hell gets as angry as angry can be. So it is that while God implanted Himself into human history, Herod became furious with envy. He stalked. He balked. He strung out his nerves to dry.

Then Herod put on the religious face. What a mask he wore. It was with such religious enthusiasm that he approached the magi to inform them that he too wanted to worship the new Hebrew King. If they would only tell him of the infant's where - abouts, Herod himself would bow before this tiny item.

So it was that Herod continued his hypocritical dance of envy by contacting chief priests and teachers of law. He asked the details of their prophetic records. Where? When? How?

In our faith journeys we come upon the outrageous counterfeits. How they wear their masks tightly.

They know the language, the imagery, the posture. They know the concepts and doctrines. They put on the display of piety. But their hearts are far from God. Again, Jesus warns His genuine grace children to be wary of the snakes.

How sad that the chief priests and teachers of the Iaw could inform Herod of the prophetic piece and yet be so utterly far from its personal truth. It would be these very religious play actors who would some day plot the murder of the infant-grown-adult. So near, so far. How often has that duo played itself out for the ruin of those on stage.

It is then with the gift of discernment that God provides the sincere grace child with the spiritual perception to see through the mask. This spiritual present enables the true believer to continue the faith journey without being detoured by those who would distract to destroy.

So it was that the magi made the trip—following the star. Yet how did they discern in the broad daylight? It was then that they simply trudged forward by faith alone. Yet in the dark of night, they would again catch the gleam.

So it is with our faith journeys. We come into night seasons of confusion and doubt,  trouble and  depression. Can we go another step? Who would care? Who will lead us? The nighttime clouds cover the star shine. We cannot see it. Have we lost it completely?

No. As we keep true to the journey, the star appears again in the darkest night. Then we know anew that God has not left us; He is still where He has always been—faithful to those children on the trek.

Eventually the magi reached Bethlehem. The Jewish shepherds had preceded them in the cave stall. But now the Gentile astrologers would come upon the Hebrew Christ in a house. No wonder Jesus later told His own that He came to the kw first and then the Gentile. So it had been since Bethlehem's start. Yet it was for all mankind—"For God who loved the world"—that the Messiah Babe laid in the manger. It was for all that He would die upon the tree.

The Christmas account then happily relates that the magi's hearts were overjoyed with their sight discovery. Their faith had led them to the visible God in the cow's trough. There he was, for certain!

What if they had given up? What if they had doubted and turned back? What if they had counted the cost and concluded it was fool-hearty? Then they would not have seen. Their faith would have crumbled. They would have paid with the loss of their very destinies.

But they did not renege. They remained true to the close. Their faith yielded its own reward—sight! And so it is with each of us—we make the journey to the close, then we seeWe come upon heaven's own reward—sight!

It was then with such utter ecstasy that these grown men bent their knees before the child. They flung their gold, frankincense, and myrrh—gushing forth with praise and worship. They were beside themselves, no doubt tears streaming down their cheeks. The hot sands were behind them. The babe was before them. They had stayed true to the vision; God had remained true to His promise.

So it is with you and me. We find out that as we make the faith journey, there arc days when we wonder what is going on. Can we make it to the close? Will it prove us the utter fools? Yet we proceed. And when we do, we realize one certainty. God never left the very spot where He promised to meet us. God has been there all along.

If the magi had turned back somewhere along the westward trail, Jesus would still have been waiting in the Bethlehem cow stall. But they would have missed Him—totally. If we had turned back, God would still be very much there. If we had forsaken the promise, the journey, the prize, God would still be very much there. God remains, though others falter.

Thank heaven the magi remained constant and so came upon The Constant. No wonder their hearts were pounding for joy abounding! And so it is the same with us, as we remain loyal to the faith, to the close of the journey.

Gary Swank is not only pastor of the New Hope Church but also instructor in fine arts at the Regional Educational Alternative Learning School in south Windham. He works daily with youth at risk.