By: Rev. Paul Scalia
Here we are, transitioning out of Christmas into the poorly named “Ordinary Time.” It all ends so abruptly. One moment we are celebrating His Birth, singing hymns, greeting shepherds, welcoming Magi. Next thing you know, we are celebrating His Baptism and packing up the crèche. So, before Christmas recedes too far into the distance, let us take one last look. The final line in the account of the Magi may serve as a good lens for doing so: “they departed for their country by another way” (Mt 2:12).
The line refers to the Magi’s avoidance of Herod, who had wanted them to report back to him about the Christ Child. He was jealous, of course, and sought to kill the Child. God warned the Magi in a dream about the danger, so they wisely avoided the king and his troops.
They departed for their country by another way. Obviously, the line describes the path of their physical journey. But perhaps we can take it to speak also of the change effected interiorly in the Magi. After what they had seen and heard, they could not possibly return the same way. They returned to their country differently – that is, as different men. Those who had encountered the Christ Child, who had prostrated themselves before Him, could not return the same way.
They returned as believers, as men whose entire way of thinking had been changed. They saw everything differently because they had worshipped the Creator and Lord of all. Of course, their country did not look any different upon their return. They encountered all the same people and situations. But now they saw it all in a new light, in His light. Their wealth and power were put in the proper perspective. Their own learning – which prompted them to follow the star in the first place – had reached its destination and purpose. Now they would think differently. Everything looked different in light of that Child in Bethlehem.
They departed for their country by another way. The line is Christmas’s parting shot. The reason we celebrate Christmas year after year is precisely so that we will be changed interiorly and return to our ordinary lives as different men and women. Christmas is not just a slice of nostalgia served up to us as a break from worldly activities. It is a time of encounter meant to change us within and return us to our regular routine – our country – in a different way.
As ours feasts and celebrations become a memory, as we return to routine, we imitate the Magi. Our lives look pretty much as before. Same spouse, same family, same job, work, struggles, challenges, etc. And yet in another sense everything is different. We have returned by another way. We have encountered the Christ Child, the King, God Himself as a baby in a manger. Now nothing will again be casual or small. He has entered our world and enchanted us. We must return a different way.