Who were the people that the Gospel of Matthew tells us came from far away lands seeking a new ruler? Christian tradition calls them kings or wise men but the Greek word magi implies they were most likely Zoroastrian priests. They were not people seeking worldly power. They weren’t kings seeking a rival, but priests seeking something of divine and cosmic importance. They were seeking truth and meaning. And, as the story goes, they were led by a guiding star which appeared to light their way to the child Jesus. That mysterious star was an epiphany, a light in the darkness that revealed something important. It showed that God’s love is born into this world in unexpected places (a small out of the way town) for all people (not just God’s “chosen”).
God also gives us guiding stars to light our way to Christ, to show us that we might find meaning in God’s love manifested in the vulnerable flesh of a small child named Jesus. So powerful is God’s love that even this small vulnerable child, unable to defend himself, is seen as a threat to the powerful and wealthy of the world – hence the warning to that magi-priests that they should avoid Herod. But what is so threatening about love, mercy, and grace? We’re still threatened by these things today. We see it when we talk about universal health care, about livable minimum wages, and about social security. These attempts to help people in need, which God through Jesus commands us to do, are seen as threats to the powerful and wealthy. But into the darkness of a culture which treats wealth as its god, shines a guiding star and a child is born, God’s love manifested in human form. And it shows us the meaning underlying life: to love one another.
The good news is that God’s light and love continues to shine among us today. We can look around us and see all the problems but we can also look around us and see our own guiding stars, those lights that reveal the presence of the Divine: the people that work to feed the homeless, those that help protect victims of violence, those that advocate for programs that help the needy, those that might simply offer an encouraging word when we most need it, or the stranger who gives us a genuine smile to lift our spirits. We can look into our world and see these guiding stars among us, little lights of hope that tell us that God is here now and God cares.
God is not only still at work in the world, but is at work in us, offering to transform each one of us to be a light in the darkness: to take a stand for justice and against fear, to live with love and compassion in our hearts and in everything we say and do, to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to resist oppression and violence… to love one another.
Let us come to the Holy One in worship and prayer, opening our hearts to the light and love of God that we too may become bearers of the light, an Epiphany people who know that the joy and grace of Christ’s birth is not just a gift to be admired and praised but a gift to be shared and put to work for the sake of the world that Gods loves so much. Let us open our hearts and become beacons of compassion and justice, that we may let God’s love shine into the darkness through us.
This reflection first appeared in my church’s newsletter on January 18, 2019 and is inspired by the sermon, “A Guiding Star,” from January 6, 2019. The audio of the sermon can be found at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.