In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” Matthew 2
Do you know who you are? What your purpose is? Where you’re going? These are the big, hairy, audacious questions that human beings have been asking since In the Beginning. And they’re also the questions each of us is confronted with every time the alarm clock rings. Some of us are even learning to ask these questions before we step into a meeting or a family conversation as we lurch toward that elusive star, Clarity.
Many of us can’t help but experience New Year’s as a time for review, renewal, and re-commitment. With the year’s darkest, shortest days behind us, the Super Bowl and Academy Awards drawing us forward through the dog days of winter, we think, wonder, and reflect. What are we about? Where are we headed?
The Magi are our companions and guides on the quest in what we claim as the Season of Epiphany. Scholars can’t say much about these strangers from the East. Sometimes called, “kings,” there’s not much evidence to support royal ties. Some say they were Persian astrologers who studied the heavens for signs and portents. Two things are for sure: they’re not like us and they’re not from around here. It is pretty clear that Matthew includes them in the story to indicate that the story born in Bethlehem has power far beyond that little hamlet in Judea. It shines into all the world and transcends every earthly regime.
The Magi were clear about their purpose and where they were going. They were 1) seeking the child-king, 2) following a star they’d tracked, and 3) their objective was to pay homage. The journey took them, as the song goes, over field and fountain, moor and mountain, always eyes on the star. That’s a discipline, and a practice, and it takes time to learn.
This Christmas Eve was the 50th anniversary of the “Earthrise” photograph in which Earth itself becomes the “star” that guided humanity to see ourselves a little differently. In these difficult days the promise of the Epiphany star is that God is leading through the chaos we can sometimes barely understand toward a future we can hardly imagine.