Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Matthew 2 1-12)

painting by Rembrandt showing Magi adoring infant Christ
The wise men are one traditional symbol of faith

Our* text for Sunday, December 24 (Christmas Eve!!) is Matthew 2:1-12. Here are some questions we might want to consider:

What are the things we “already know” about this text? For instance, what are our memories of hearing it or learning it as children, or our expectations based on paintings or nativity scenes or re-enactments of “the Christmas story”? What would happen if we made a list of the things we expect to find in the text, or “know are in” the text, and then read the text and put a check mark by each of the expectations that actually show up in the text? How many of our memories or expectations do we find in the Biblical text? How surprised are we? Why or why not?

Verse 1 tells us the actors in the story are magoi, a Greek word that can mean “magicians” or “wise men”; some commentators identify them as “astrologers”; Christian tradition calls them “kings”; it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to call them “wizards”. What difference does it make to us what we call them? Do we get different ideas about what is going on in the story from those different words? Why? What are the differences? Do we prefer one word over another? Which one? Why?

There are several sources of “wisdom” in the story (the natural phenomenon of the star, Scripture – recorded prophecy, a dream), and two groups of scholars (the wise men, and the chief priests and scribes). What do these kinds of wisdom have in common? How are they different? What do the scholars have in common? What makes them different? Only a few people seem to have access to wisdom in this story – does that matter? Why? What, if anything, does this examination of wisdom tell us about what is going on in the text? What might this have to do with the birth of Jesus?

The wise men and King Herod have radically different reactions to the news that “the King of the Jews” has been born. Why (do we think)? Why do we think this – because of something in the text, because of what we know about “the world,” other? Do we see similar reactions among people today? What do we think explains them in our world? More personal How do our own response(s) to Jesus compare to those of the wise men? In what ways are they similar, in what ways different?

The wise men have often been treated as “models” for faith. What ways do you see them being models or good examples of faith? Are they models that Christians today can copy? Why, or why not?

Suppose the “different road” the wise men took on the way back home “stands for” something. What could it stand for?

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