James Taylor, the American singer-songwriter, wrote a marvellous song called Home by Another Way. It tells the story, as Taylor imagines it, of the Magi who meet the King of Judah, Herod, on their way to Bethlehem where they have been led by a star. After this awkward royal audience, the Magi led to Jesus by a star, offer him their gifts and worship, and then return home. They have been warned by a dream not to give word to King Herod of where the new Messiah is to be found.
The Magi are rather strange figures in the Gospel. Who, after all, gives a baby myrrh? Myrrh is a resin used for anointing and embalming corpses. Who gives a baby something for his death?
Be that as it may, the Magi are significant for other reasons too. They came from Assyria, then the most powerful country in the world; their long journey with all its stops and starts, and not a few false turnings, illustrates how circuitous our own routes to Jesus might be. But James Taylor fixed on one thing in particular. The Magi went "home by another way". They were changed and their old patterns and maps had fallen away.
James Taylor has grasped something essential about keeping Christmas. When we hear the Gospel of Christmas it should change us and force us to rethink our tired journeys. If this is how God most truly is, a baby, powerless to offer anything but searching love, then how we think of power, wealth, status and so many other false values our society worships must change.
I ask myself this Christmas, as I hear the Gospel proclaimed, do I have the courage of the Magi? Do I have the courage to be guided by Christ, and go home another way?