Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:7-11)
The contrast is pretty striking. But, in all honestly, I'm not sure I would have seen it if I wasn't shown it at church this morning. On the one hand you have the Magi, the three wise men who came from the east and followed the star, until it came to rest over the place where the child (Jesus) was. We are not told much about them: where they were specifically from, how many miles they had traveled, or how long it had taken them. But we can well imagine that it had been a long and grueling journey. Some scholars estimate that the three travelers had ventured as many as 800 miles in search of the new born King, which could've taken in excess of 80 days. If nothing else, these guys were serious about seeking.
King Herod, on the other hand, lived about six miles from Bethlehem. And even though he was so close to the place where the God of the universe had just entered into His creation, he was unwilling to go see it for himself. In fact, Herod told the Magi to go and search, and, if they found anything, to come back and let him know about it. He wasn't about to go through all the trouble of seeking God on his own. "Let someone else do the work, and then let them tell me what they find." he must've figured.
Unfortunately, that attitude still seems to live on to this day, because true seeking requires a lot of us, especially when we are talking about seeking God. In fact, it requires all of us. There is no half way. There is no letting someone else do the work and then telling us what they have found. It is impossible to seek God second hand. Someone else cannot do it for us. We must go. We must embark on the journey, no matter what the length, regardless of what the cost. We must be like the wise men, rather than like King Herod. We must be willing to seek Him, for only then will we be totally and completely captured by the object of our seeking--Jesus. Only then will we rejoice exceedingly and be filled with great joy. Only then will we fall down and worship him, opening our treasures to him and offering him all that we have and all that we are. As the prophet Jeremiah so appropriately reminds us; "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord..." (Jeremiah 29:13-14).
O my God, teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek
you unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire, and desire you
in my seeking. Let me find you by loving
you, let me love you when I find you. (St.
Anselm of Canterbury)