Isaiah 60: 1-6 Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6 Matthew 2: 1-12
In the drama that is the story of the Magi, there is a role played by what is described as a star. It is a star that was “observed at its rising. It is a star that signaled a significant event to these learned individuals. It is a star that would lead them to search for the “newborn King of the Jews.”
This occurrence that is reported in the Gospel of Saint Matthew has been a frequent source of speculation There are periodic stories about whether some great astronomical event happened at this time. Perhaps it was a conjunction of planets or the appearance of comet or some other heavenly phenomenon. Added to this speculation is the really curious and unexplained nature of these persons described by St. Matthew but not otherwise mentioned by him.
Perhaps the mystery of the star and it role in this account might best be understood in the context of the beauty and poetry that we heard from the prophet, Isaiah. The star is the light that would radiate and shine forth. The star is the glory of the Lord that is evident and that is to be made evident.
In the rather succinct telling of this story by St. Matthew, the foreigners, the Magi, sought the object of their quest, by following the guidance of this light, this star. But, apparently, that guidance was lost once they drew near to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the place of the Temple. It was the place and the people where the presence of God was to be known and to be experienced. But the radiant light of the star had not only been dimmed, it had vanished. Why was that? What had they encountered in Jerusalem? There was a king, Herod, who was fearful of being replaced. There was people who did not rejoice but who were greatly troubled by what was occurring. What they encountered was a faithless situation rather than a revealing experience of God.
Once the Magi removed themselves from that environment of doubt and distrust of God, the guiding light, the star, reappeared. They were able, once again, to follow its guiding light to the goal of their lengthy journey which was to acknowledge the “newborn King of the Jews.”
Here, I believe, can be found an important insight into this account recorded by St. Matthew. More than to the mysterious Magi, Wise Men, Kings, as they have been known over the centuries, we ought to give our thoughts and considerations to that “star,” that “radiant light.” Where is that radiant light to be found today? Where is the revelation of that radiant light, that “glory of the Lord” to be recognized as a genuine guiding star, guiding us and guiding our world? In union with Jesus Christ, God born into our world, the revelation of God being sought from all corners of the world is to be discovered in us and in our lives.
The showing forth, the epiphany that we remember today, is not simply the drama and the pageantry that is depicted in a manger scene. The showing forth, the epiphany that we recall is what each of us is to be, a radiant light that shines forth the presence of God-with-us, Emmanuel. We are not to allow that radiant light to be dimmed by jealousy or fear or doubt in a loving God. Rather, it is to reappear and guide more clearly, with deep faith and trust. It is to lead us and lead our world to the discovery and the experience of our truly good and gracious God.