Natalia Terfa: After the Manger: An Epiphany Lesson

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. (Matthew 2:12)

In Matthew’s Gospel we hear of the visiting Magi, strangers from another land, who came to offer gifts to Jesus. 

They had made a stop on the way to see the regional king, Herod, who told them to “come back and let him know” where exactly that new king was. 

No reason in particular, just so that he could “pay his respects” as well. 

These magi were no fools, thank goodness. 

They went home another way, and Herod?
Oh, Herod raged. 

There is a whole story with two important things to notice in verse 12 above. 

First, the magi listened to their dreams. 

I find this part of the story very compelling this year. 

When we’re tired (beyond tired, really) and feeling a little hopeless, it can be hard to listen to our dreams. Hard to hear what the longing of our hearts really is trying to tell us. 

We cover up that deep inner longing, that voice that is quietly whispering the dream within us. We cover it up with resolutions and goals 
and intentions, 
which, let’s be honest, are all basically the same thing. 

What if we took a little bit of time at the start of this new year and wondered - what are my dreams telling me? What is my deepest inner voice trying to say? 

Imagine if the magi hadn’t trusted themselves. Imagine if they had ignored or suppressed the little voice telling them that it was not safe to return to the regional king. 

The first part of this story asks us to tend the whisper that we don’t often pause to hear, and often don’t trust.

To the Magi, it whispers:
What if the regional king is lying? 

I know this is a dangerous question to ask, but the skeptic in me loves that it’s at the core of the magi’s dreams. 

What is the regional king that keeps lying to you? Is it capitalism? 
White supremacy? 
A culture that tells you
you should be having your best life now?Some sense of inferiority or worthlessness?

All of the above? 


Our dreams are telling us to go another way. 

That’s the second part of the story in this single verse. 

The magi go another way.  

They have listened to their dreams, and have faced the reality that Herod was lying to them, and they return home by another way. 

This is so hard. 

When we’re tired (again, beyond tired) and even listening to our dreams feels like a big ask, this next part
definitely feels like too much. 

So we don’t. 

Most of the time, we just don’t go another way. 

I get it. It’s easier to go where you’ve gone before. To do things the way you’ve done them. 
To follow a path you’ve already been on. 

But sometimes we need to go another way. 

And I think this is one of those times. 

We need to go another way. 

The world is pushing us to go back to the way things were, and it’s obviously not working out real well for us. Not mentally or physically. Not emotionally or spiritually. 

Many, if not most of us are not ok. 

So what might it look like, even now - especially now - to imagine a new way? To try something

To not do it the way we’ve always done it but to listen carefully to our dreams and set out on another way? 

This feels particularly relevant in the church right now. 

If we’re honest, many of us don’t want to go by another way. We want to go back to the way it was. 

Maybe it’s because so much of our theology and liturgy and practice is grounded in tradition. 

And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about tradition, it’s beautiful and meaningful and connects us to generations past and future. 

But what if our inability to go another way is putting us in danger? What if we aren’t willing to risk the anger of the regional king and put the whole story at risk instead? 

This article has more questions than answers, I am very aware. But I know I’m not alone in asking them. I know many clergy colleagues and congregation members asking these same questions. People who are daring to listen to their dreams, and risking the anger of the powerful in service to the daring dreams of Gospel. 

As we enter into the season of Epiphany, I wonder if we can look to the magi for not just a lesson on how to follow a star, but for what happens next.

What happens when we listen to our dreams and dare to go another way?


Natalia Terfa

Natalia is a Lutheran pastor and author who lives in Minneapolis with her hubby, kiddo, and kitty babies. She loves to bake, to read, practice yoga, and find nature adventures. She is passionate about the church of the future, one with no boundaries and filled to the brim with love and grace and laughter and snark and a lot of fellow “not that kind of Christians.”

Natalia co-hosts Cafeteria Christian, a podcast for people who love Jesus but aren’t so sure about his followers.


Used with permission. Originally posted on Church Anew, a ministry of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, MN.

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