Fourth Wednesday of Advent: The Unexpected Part
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
—Matthew 2:1-2 (Read Matthew 2)
The first offering made to Jesus comes with a thick air of the unfathomable.
“Magi from the east” were not only Gentiles (that is, not Israelites), but they likely studied and even worshiped the stars. They would look to the constellations and to ancient prophecies linked to the lining up of the stars and planets to predict the future and make sense of the current-day events.
This is the equivalent of the Scriptures saying that “horoscope devotees'' were the first people to worship Jesus as God.
If you are Jewish, you expect a priest—namely, the High Priest himself—to be the first to make an offering. Not some star-gazing, horoscope-reading Gentile!
Growing up, I heard testimonies of conversions from convicts, drug addicts, devil-worshipers, and even extreme weightlifters who tore phone books and bent frying pans one second then gave a Gospel presentation and an altar call the next.
I always dreamt that God would bring a miraculous healing to my body so I could share such a great testimony as my offering back to Him.
Growing up with an unknown throat disease seemed to set me up for exactly that! Since childhood, I’ve had difficulty swallowing. Eventually, that difficulty turned into a proclivity towards episodic periods of uncontrollable gagging and retching that could last minutes or hours. And doctors had no clue why this was happening.
Cue the lights! Hand me the mic! I’m ready for a miracle and a testimony that brings glory to God!
Not so fast.
The gagging fits became more frequent and severe until finally, in the spring of 2020 following a harrowing gagging fit, I received a diagnosis!
So maybe this is it? My medical miracle!
First, I was forbidden to eat eggs, dairy, wheat, fish, nuts, or soy. Then I was instructed to reintroduce each of these back into my diet to see if my throat would reject that food and begin to cause my gagging fits. I would have to find out what I’m allergic to the hard way.
This can’t possibly be the offering that brings glory to God, right?
This past summer, the FDA approved its first-ever drug treatment for my disease. Maybe this is the miracle!
The drug is a self-injectable medication (think: epipen) that I administer to myself once a week for six months. Then I may find out if it works. Every single injection causes me anxiety. I can’t stand it.
I am so desperate for this treatment to work, but for it to maybe work, I must dedicate myself every week to a humbling, painful, inglorious injection.
God’s glory can’t possibly be in this, can it? Is this my great offering?
The lesson I am learning as I meditate on the story of Magi and relate it to my own longings is this:
When I peer into—and even embrace—the darkness within myself, I will find myself guided by God’s light.
If I follow that light, I will encounter Jesus and will have the privilege of granting God a great and unexpected offering—my own weakness.
The daily peering into and embracing the darkness in my own body (my throat disease) and soul (my anxiety around not only injections, but also my ongoing suffering) will actually sharpen my eyes to see the Guiding LIght of God’s grace towards me—not despite my weakness, but because of my weakness.
This is the privileged “can’t-possibly-be-the-Magi” offering that Jesus can receive from the most unsuspecting part of myself.
Lord, may we trust that even the darkest aspects of our lives have an offering to discover within them that is just waiting to become a most unexpected offering unto God. May the daily embrace of our weakness become the bright star of Your glory within our darkness, guiding ourselves—and even, perhaps, the most unexpected people—to Jesus. Amen.
—Philip Schiavoni is an Area Director with the CCO, serving staff and developing CCO ministries on college campuses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia.
SIGN UP TO RECEIVE DAILY CCO ADVENT DEVOTIONAL EMAILS