They Went Home by Another Road


By The Rev. Dr. Charles R. Millikan
One of the most intriguing stories we have at Christmas is the story of the Magi or the Wise Men coming to the manger to see the newborn Jesus. It’s intriguing for several reasons. First that they were looking for a star, which would announce his birth. Second, they followed that star, and even stopped by King Herod’s when they needed directions. Third, once seeing Jesus, they laid before him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But it was in a dream, they were warned not to return to Herod, and they left for their own country by another road.
The fact that they were so observant is absolutely astounding. These Wise Men were on the lookout for the Messiah. They were aware that a messiah was to someday come, and this would be the way it would be announced, by a new star in the heavens. I can only imagine the years that their eyes and minds were focused on looking for this sign, not with standing their predecessors searching the heavens before them.
Then, that they were ready to travel. Once they recognized that this was “the star” they were ready to pick up and go. They were living with bags packed. They knew time was short, and they needed to follow this star immediately.
Of course, the gifts. How special. To think that the gold representing his kingship, frankincense his priesthood, and myrrh as a token recognizing his death, was truly insightful.
Yet, by far the most intriguing part of the story is the dream that came to them after seeing the new born Jesus and choosing to go home by another road, bypassing Herod and his ruthless fear and ambition for what this new born Christ represented for him.
Looking back in time, we know that tradition has it that as the scriptures reads, they found Jesus cradled in a manger almost immediately, just after the shepherds have left, when it fact it may have taken months or even a couple of years for them to finally arrive.
We also know that the gifts they brought were gifts that we in the Church recognize as bearing more than just a resemblance or coincidence.
But what I am most intrigued with is the dream. Dreams can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and yet this by tradition, has been a means that has led God’s people to make some big decisions. It was in Joseph’s dream that he chose to remain betrothed to Mary. It was in Eli’s dream that he heard God call to him in the night. Others we can recall throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is filled with people making decisions following a dream.
My prayer is that during this Christmas season we will be observant, be ready to travel, give the most appropriate gifts possible, and quite possibly, realize that some dreams may need to be recognized as God’s possibly reaching out to us and giving us the option to take a different road home.
The Rev. Charles R. Millikan, D.Min.
Vice President for Spiritual Care and Values Integration
Dr. Ronny W. and Ruth Ann Barner Centennial Chair in Spiritual Care
Houston Methodist Hospital