Christmas Eve 2015
We had been watching the star for about two months before we really got serious about it. I’m not sure why it took us so long to make something of this, but you know how schedules are and all; I guess it took us that long to actually realize that it really was a significant star.
Some of you are a bit surprised at that, I’m sure, because our business is star-gazing. You see, we are astrologers, and we watch the sky every night, charting the progress of the stars and interpreting their movements. Now I also know that nowadays you all take quite a dim view of astrologers, and their craft, but I’ll bet some of you still check your horoscope from time to time.
But in our day, astrology was a science. And it was a well-respected science. Believe it or not, we magi were nearly revered by our people. It was kinda nice. In retrospect, though, I suppose that astrology was all that we really had. You see, coming from the East, we did not know your God. We knew of your God because of our studies, and we knew about your God from the traders who passed through our land, but I now know that there’s a world of difference between knowing God and knowing about God.
Our astrology was really our religion. We studied it with the same enthusiasm, and committed ourselves to it in the same way that you study your faith and your Scriptures.
In a world of darkness, we were searching for light. Our studies of the lights in the night sky gave us hope that there was something out there bigger and more magnificent than ourselves. But until we met the child behind the star, our hopes were always nebulous, and kind of vague, without substance.
As I said, the star had been there for about two months. We had seen the star at its rising, and we knew that it was a significant star, but we really hadn’t been moved by it yet. It was sort of just there. So we studied, and we studied some more, and we asked questions, and finally it came to us that a new king had been born to the Jews.
But still, so what? This was not our king by any stretch of the imagination. What did the new king have to do with us? It nagged at us though. We couldn’t get it out of our minds. It was as if the star, and all that it portended exercised a mysterious and compelling force over us. There was something drawing us to that star. We could almost hear it saying to us, “Come, and follow me, and I will show you the most marvelous truth of the entire universe.” And now we know that’s just what it was. But I’m getting ahead of my story.
We decided to follow the star. At first, it seemed kind of foolish. It’s not our normal practice to go chasing after every pretty new star. We’re scientists, remember? We’re reasonable, and practiced, but more than anything else, we’re disciplined. Chasing a star seemed quite out of character for us.
But we couldn’t ignore the powerful message that we were getting, either. We had to see for ourselves. So we made preparations for a trip, and facing the confused looks and outright disbelief of our friends, we set out.
It took almost two years from the time that we first observed the star until we arrived in the city of Jerusalem. We went first to Jerusalem, because quite frankly, that’s where we expected to find the young king. Jerusalem was the capitol city. It only seemed natural and reasonable to us that we would find the new king in residence, in the capitol. But boy, were we wrong!
When we arrived in the city, we went straight to the palace. And at first, we were graciously received. The king, in residence, Herod was his name, seemed genuinely interested in our tale. He was full of polite and inquisitive questions. He wanted to know where we were from, when we had observed the star, how long our journey had taken, all those kinds of things. He assured us that we would soon see the child. He asked us about our lodgings, and then we were dismissed.
A day later, Herod summoned us once again into his court, and he told us that the child could be found in the village of Bethlehem, some six miles south of the city. This time, Herod seemed to be more irritated than polite, but none of us thought much of it at the time. We departed for Bethlehem with strict instructions to find the child and to return to Jerusalem, reporting our findings.
We found the child. But what humble circumstances for a future king! His mother was very young and unassuming; almost shy. And his father, well, as best as we could tell, he was a sometimes employed carpenter. The house was rented, and sufficient for a new family, but not much more.
But the child! We could not have imagined that he was a more worthy king! He was worthy of worship. Not the kind of perfunctory worship that we had intended to offer, but worship that engaged our whole hearts. We listened to the story his parents told of their own involvement in the life of this child, and when we heard it, right then and there, our hearts were first strangely warmed, and then, utterly transformed.
We returned to our land quietly, and without reporting back to Herod. As part of the most amazing journey of our entire lives, we received a vision of an angel who told us to return home secretly, but with changed hearts. And that’s just what we did.
Looking back, I fully understand the sense of urgency that compelled us to travel all that distance. It was the climax of our whole professional lives. That child was the light that we had been searching for. That child is the object of our life-long quest in the stars. That child is the light of the world. That child is the true hope for all who struggle in the darkness.
You know that we gave him gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh. But they were paltry offerings compared to the gift that Jesus gave us. He gave us life. And hope. And ultimately, when we traced him tragically to his death, he gave us salvation. (Yes, we did keep tabs on him, how could we not?)
We came to him those many years ago, but in thinking it through, really, it was he who came to us. He sent us his star, he drew us to him, and it was he who entered into our hearts.
And it is into all of our hearts that Jesus desires to come. He comes not so much as king, but as friend; humble and unassuming, but with power to light the darkest corners of our lives. The writer of your Gospel says that we went home by another way. We sure did. We found a new path homeward and a new home. We found the path to eternal life, and the path to an eternal home. And so can you.