Of the four gospels only two include the infancy stories, the more Jewish Matthew and Luke the gospel written for a more Greek audience. One tells of shepherds, the other of magi. The counterintuitive part is that it is the thoroughly Jewish Matthew that tells of the Magi. It is in Matthew's Gospel that the first people to acknowledge Jesus as God and King are not the chosen people the children of Abraham but a group of foreigners, pagans, mostly likely Zoroastrian Persians. The foreigners could see what the wisest in Israel could not.
Have you ever noticed that when we hear our voice recorded most of us do not like the way it sounds? It sounds strange. We think, "I don't sound like that." The reason is anatomical. Others hear us from the outside. They hear the sound that comes out of our mouth. What we hear is that sound altered by the resonance inside our heads. We can't hear ourselves the way others do, except in a recording. We think we know the sound of our own voice but we don't.
As a tribunal judge dealing with marriage cases for 14 years, I always say there are three versions of every marriage: his version, her version, and what actually happened. It's not that we intentionally lie. We simply cannot see ourselves objectively. We cannot get outside ourselves.
We need others. We need outsiders, people who can see us from a different perspective. On the one hand we will all say,"Nobody's perfect" but the moment some starts to critique us we get our back up. And the closer they are to the truth the more defensive we become. We do this both as as individuals and as a country. Let someone from outside our family, ethnic group, state or country critique us and watch how we react.
The Israelites looked up that night and saw the same old sky they always saw. The Persian astrologers looked up and saw something else. They spotted the one odd star and followed it. The foreigners could see what the locals could not.
As we begin this new year, hopefully we all recognize that as individual and communities, there is always room for improvement. Improvement requires change. Change requires critique.
It is easy for us in our modern age to only listen to the voices that agree with us. Cable TV, satellite radio, and the Internet give us the ability to so customize input that we only hear what we like, the voices that reaffirm what we already believe.
The magi remind us that the foreigner, the outsider can often see what we do not. As we begin this new year, let us open our minds and hearts. Let us truly listen to others, and then prayerfully discern. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the spirit of truth. The Sprit will help us to separate the wheat from the chaff. We need to accept I input from the whole range of sources and discern in prayer. Conversion is a continuous lifelong process. We always need to change.