A Rising Star
Today’s story of the Magi, the wise men from the East (“Three kings of orient” as the hymn puts it), following a star to the little town of Bethlehem, is an exotic addition to the nativity story of Jesus. Only Matthew provides us with this narrative. Up till now our eyes have been turned toward the earth, toward the baby in a hay-strewn manger, in a sorry stable for animals.
Now, in the prophecy of Isaiah, we are called to “lift up your eyes and look around” – something cosmic is going on here. We go from zooming in on the baby, to zooming out to ponder the whole universe – the stars in the heavens! The whole universe is the realm of God’s action, and the stage upon which God reveals God’s plan of redemption.
And this plan is not just for the bedraggled Jewish people of the middle east, it extends to the whole world: the abundance of the seas and the wealth of the nations shall be offered in tribute to the God-Man Jesus. I wonder who could provoke such an offering in today’s world? An athlete? A movie star? A royal couple?
This strange tale of Persian astrologers steps well outside the main trajectory of the Jesus story. But perhaps the most important meaning for us today is this: the Adoration of the Magi shows that all the nations – all peoples of this world – are included in God’s love, God’s plan of salvation. God is universal. It is no longer possible to favor one people or race or nationality. No group has God’s favor more than others. The shining light of Jesus is a bright star over all of us. There is no fault in our stars. If we could only learn that, and live that way, how different our world would be. JBM