Magical Knowledge

by Liz Young

(Based on Matt 2:1-12)

We’ve said goodbye to 2021. It’s time to leave our regrets behind for all those mistakes and undone things of 2021, and think of our resolutions for the New Year. Before I open up discussion on that, I want us to think of the Gospel of today: the journey of the Magi (‘Wise Men’?) to worship Christ, whose birth led to our redemption for all time. Their mathematical and astrological knowledge was amazing. Knowledge lost over time by recurrent invasions from the east, Huns followed by Mongols, into Europe.
Nowadays knowledge and seeds are stored safe from invaders. Intellectual knowledge came to Rome from the Greeks, and later to Madrid from Moslems, and then Western European knowledge was added to in the 18th and 19th centuries by France and Britain, searching for knowledge overseas, and then spread to everyone who had a computer in the 20th century. But other knowledge acquired by quiet study has been lost since the start of Christianity, during wars between differing factions of Christians, The libraries in Alexandria, the Reformation of the monasteries. History has many examples of governments and their armies fighting for power, for economic gain, and destroying libraries. This fighting has only dimmed in the last century with the invention of the nuclear bomb: when we realized that mass destruction would leave no arable land behind. But wars still continue, especially local wars in Africa, and wars of independence from overwhelming tyranny. When will we learn that we are all one in the eyes of God?

The Magi were experts in the interpretation of omens, and Herod was a great believer in omens, so would have had his own magi. But we have natural portents that we find easier to interpret than omens, such as new buds forming on trees heralding spring, and today’s weather forecasts are increasingly accurate. But  we still haven’t learnt to share earth’s resources equally.  When will we learn the advantages of sharing the earth’s gifts, amongst all of humanity equably? At least at the latest COP meeting richer nations were able to agree that we need to help the poorer countries develop protection from climate warming.  But when will we minimize over consumption, when will we say goodbye to fashion? And how can we minimise our non-compostable rubbish?

It is possible, as the small town of Raglan has shown. I’ll never forget being offered my coffee in a reused jam jar, insulated by string wound round it.
Many of us will remember that some experts predicted that we would run out of food before the end of the 20th century. But we developed grains that yielded more. In fact we can produce enough food now to feed the world, but it does have to be stored safely and distributed fairly. When will we build safe storage from floods and famine for every one? Bangladesh is constantly at risk from floods. When will we minimize our over consumption? More than half the food prepared in restaurants used to be thrown away: one good result of this pandemic is that this food in Auckland is being distributed to the hungry. So much waste occurs because we, the consumers, want perfect fruit. We need to teach our children not to turn their noses up at natural blemishes on fruit. We want to be protected from germs so everything is packed in plastic bags, while at the same time our children have more allergies because they are not exposed to enough dirt after the age of four months. Are we barmy or batty?

To return to Knowledge: intellectual knowledge is not the only form of knowledge. The wise men sought the Saviour of the world. Religion has been part of human society for over 10,000 years and God’s love for us was revealed in Christ over 2000 years ago. Initially religion was about appeasement. There were, and are, so many potential dangers in the world that God’s benevolence needs to protect us from. Men have offered sacrifices all through the ages for protection from danger and for good harvests. But safety and sufficient food is not everything. How we live together and care for each other is important too. The Magi knew that Jesus was the chosen one. They who were kings’ advisers came to worship a new born baby lying in a manger in a stable, because they foresaw that his teachings would benefit all mankind. Would the millionaires who’ve just been launched to the edge of our atmosphere do that? They might.

Let us pray that God gives us the best minds for the job of helping us downsize our personal expectations so all can be fed well, and each family live in a healthy home. Each one of us can lower our personal consumption. (My husband makes me give a garment to the Op Shop every time I buy a new one!) But we frequently fail to follow God’s principles, and in many different ways. We sin at any time. Jesus came to redeem us from that sin. The Magi came to honour him.

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