Follow the Star

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home Depositphotos_76337413_m-2015.jpg
January 6, 2019 – The Epiphany - Matt. 2:1-12

When I read the gospel for today’s feast, I learned something new. There is no mention of how many magi (wise men) travelled to see the new-born, Jesus. I assumed (like 99% of us) that there were three. Isn’t that the standard number in most manger scenes? Yet their number is not to be found in the biblical account. But you can be sure of one thing. That whatever their number, Jesus, Mary and Joseph would have noticed each one.

That’s because in the ways of our God, each person counts. Each one of us is important to God. As is our personal meeting God in whatever the circumstance of our lives.

Each year the church reminds us of the key moments in the life of Jesus. This Sunday, the Epiphany (which means “manifestation” or “appearance”) is a good example of this practice. We are invited with our “gifts” to come and encounter the child who is God in human form. Think of just that: the greatest in the smallest. My guess is that the wise ones who came were surprised because he was just a little baby. His parents were ordinary. Much like us. Is this how God is “manifested” to us? In surprising ways? In ways we might not expect? I think so.

Today’s feast is one that suggests a series of contrasts. Easily noticed are the gifts of great value that were given to one who was poor. Because of our interest in gift-giving, this part of the story grabs our attention. To do so is a mistake. Something much more important is there beyond simply the giving of gifts.

The magi placed themselves in great danger to seek the One they desired. There were no earthly signs to lead them – they had to rely on a star. All this signaled serious risk. They were described as being “wise” but was this behaviour what would have been described as the smart thing to do? Hardly. They were traveling in a part of the world that was not their own. That placed them in serious potential danger Traveling foreigners were noticed by bandits. We also learn that they were carrying valuables. Still they persisted. They were on a mission and they could not back down.

So, what was the high moment in this narrative? I think it was that they personally met Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, the one from whom all wisdom comes. Even theirs. Here, we might think about how God can be present in everything. So, don’t confuse “small” or” ordinary” and think that’s not important. The “magi from the east” didn’t. Nor should we.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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