Isaiah proclaims; “The glory of the Lord shines upon you” (60: 1). With this proclamation, today we celebrate the Epiphany – which is the coming of the Magi. The story is one of light, hope and a Star. It is also a story of darkness and evil. The story includes a journey, foreigners, and gifts. We can wonder about the story, whether it is history or legend? Regardless of the story’s origin, we can look to the deeper spiritual message of the story.
The scripture scholar, Fr. Ray Brown says that Matthew’s gospel is about connection, natural revelation and revelation of Jewish scripture. Jesus' birth is told to Jews via angels and scripture. His birth is told to Gentiles via earth and astrology. Because of that some scholars say the Magi were astrologers and represent Gentiles coming to belief in Jesus and so following a star makes sense. These Magi studied stars; they knew star charts, but they lacked a particular piece of knowledge in their search for a king. They need the revelation of Jewish scripture. And so the star leads them to Herod to inquire, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews?" they ask. "In Bethlehem of Judea" is Herod’s reply. In the end, the star leads the Magi to their ultimate destination. The star light leads them to the light of the world - Jesus.
Whatever we think of this story, whether that be legend or history, the Magi are a symbol. They made a journey we are all on. They are traveling toward the light to find God. Their journey takes them far from home. They travel many miles and are prepared to give of themselves. They are prepared to give their gifts in service of another, to contribute to the brilliance of that shining light. I can imagine that their journey to and encounter with Christ changed them. I can imagine that they returned home transformed.
This is us. This is our Christian story and challenge. We, too, are on a journey toward the light. We are on a journey to find God, not only in Scripture, but also in the world around us. Ours is a journey of hope, not despair. It is a journey of moving out of darkness toward the light. No matter how bad things get, John tells us “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:5). My prayer for all of us this Christmas is that when we encounter the light, we may find that despite the miles we have traveled, despite the distance we have come, despite what we have given of ourselves, that we are transformed. May the light of the Christ child come to dwell in your home today and everyday.