Canon Roy Arnold
We are all familiar with the Three Wise Men and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but let me tell yon this morning about one of the other main characters in this story.
King Herod, better known as Herod the Great, had quite a good reputation as the restorer of a ruined Jerusalem, rebuilder of a new temple and other grand schemes. He was generous to the poor after he once had some of his gold plates melted down and the proceeds given to feed the hungry, and he was bringer of 21 years of peace to his kingdom. Not bad.
But he had a flaw in his character. He was deeply suspicious of anyone who challenged his power and he actually murdered his wife and her mother because of this. And many another who threatened him which is why he gained the reputation of being a murderous old man, getting worse in his old age.
Imagine then how he felt when our Wise Men turned up asking about a new king just born. We know his response “Go and find this child” he said, “that I too may come and worship him”. But for “worship” he actually meant to MURDER him.
But the Wise Men were not called “wise” for nothing and when they had found Jesus and presented their gifts, we are told they went back home “by another road”, disappearing from the pages of the Bible and history leaving Herod the Great thwarted in his evil intent.
What lessons might we learn from this familiar story, I wonder? Perhaps we might ponder about the flaws we might have like Herod beneath our own good reputations and respectability, and wonder (or maybe know) that there might lurk another side to our characters; some shady or darker side. Psychologists tell us that we all have a shadow self, a dark side, such as Herod had in abundance. With us it can be envy of others, or jealousy, or greed. It might be an everyday fault like a wicked temper or irritability, or the need to control others at work or at home.
The plain fact is that these flaws spoil our lives, and when we add all the faults of humanity together they most certainly spoil our world. Just watch the News tonight to confirm that this is so.
And yet, there is an answer to all of this. There is always “another road” for us to take – as the Wise Men did – which I believe is the other road of love and forgiveness. In our own everyday lives and in the wider life of humanity, as taught by Jesus; the alternative route which He wants us to travel. The other road with Jesus by our side; and what better time to decide to travel this other road than at the start of this New Year.
I came across a quote from Mother Teresa of Calcutta the other day. She said: “Every work of love brings a person face to face with God, and simple acts of love and care keep the light of Christ burning”. Let us – me and you – keep this light of Christ burning through this New Year.
Going the other road with Him – His way. But always remembering that this road – this way – is not an easy route.
By no means easy.