Matthew’s Gospel rounds out the birth narrative of Jesus with the visit of the magi (Matthew 2:1-12). The magi, most often depicted and sung about as the Three Wise Men, travel from afar following the brilliant star in the sky. These studiers of stars knew there was something special about the star and what – or who – it pointed to.
We think of them as three Wise Men, because of the three gifts they bring. These gifts tell us a little bit about who Jesus is. Gold for a King, frankincense for a Priest, and myrrh used for preparing a body for burial. Gold because Jesus is King. Frankincense because Jesus is the High Priest. But myrrh? Imagine the look on Mary and Joseph’s faces when these travelers from the east laid out myrrh. A symbol of death. Jesus will die, so that we may live.
As far as the 12 verses in Matthew tell us, we do not know how much the magi knew about Jesus. Was it faith or was it curiosity that started them on this journey? Many a preacher, theologian, and blogger has told us that the magi had great faith to trek across the desert in search of the King. But I would like to think that some curiosity was involved too.
Curiosity includes being an explorer, an investigator, and a willingness to learn. Curiosity begins with questions. What if . . . .The more we invest in our faith, the more questions we will have. The more we will wonder about Truth.
These are not questions that should be set aside on the shelf as we continue to have faith in the mystery. It’s okay to be curious about the mystery. It’s okay to explore faith. It’s okay to investigate faith. It’s super okay to be willing to learn more.
Remember the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat?” The statement implies that if we are too curious we will die. I remember as a kid watching our cat Midnight on summer days explore parts of the yard and the woods. Cats are naturally curious. But curiosity did not kill Midnight. She exceeded her nine lives and lived a good, healthy life.
We can too. We can have a healthy faith life while having some curiosity. But there are those in the church who will caution us that if we get too curious we will die. Why? Maybe out of fear that our explorations will reveal the ugly truths. Maybe they are concerned that we will explore ourselves out of the church. And these are valid and wonderful concerns.
Christian Piatt notes that for some “it feels rootless.” It is just too radical to go outside the lines. But some of the greatest radicals have changed the face of Christianity. St. Francis of Assisi. Catherine of Sienna. Martin Luther. John Wesley. Mother Teresa.
They were curious about faith and did so without being uprooted.
We preach and teach to follow Jesus. But do we have enough curiosity to follow that Light? Do we always welcome the questions? Do our churches, small groups, or youth groups, create spaces to be curious?