Today we celebrate a journey – the journey of three Persian astrologers – three kings – who set out on a long journey to an unknown land in search of a Child. As we remember these mysterious men paying their homage to the Infant of Bethlehem, our thoughts go back not so much to the scene at the end of their journey; or even to the journey itself, but rather to the beginning of the journey. What must it have been like for them? They discover a new star and trace its origin to the Jewish faith and their expectation of a Messiah. These men were familiar with the Hebrew scriptures so they were familiar with the book of Isaiah which predicted the coming of the Messiah. They believed that at last, he had come somehow, they saw it in the star.
They decide: “We must go. We must follow that star.” So, they set out on a journey of faith in search of God they did not know. Can you imagine the reaction of their families and friends? The general consensus must have been: “They have lost their minds!” Why would anybody in their right mind leave everything behind; risk the dangers of the open road; pack up the best treasures they had, only to give them away; follow a mysterious light in the sky? Can’t you just hear the remarks: “Look at those fools in pursuit of their impossible dream.”
But they had to make the journey – despite the length and danger of the trip! Despite the desert heat and the cold nights in the mountains; despite the dangers of wild animals and robbers. Maybe along the way, they had some second thoughts; but the star summoned them and guided them to continue on their difficult journey until they walked through the gates of the city of Bethlehem and knelt at the crib where they discovered a child – the Savior of the world.
They opened their treasures and offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh: the gold of their love, the incense of their reverence, and the myrrh of their suffering on the journey. There were very precious gifts, but the greatest gift was the journey itself. Their journey was the highest homage they could offer. The Magi looked into the face of God and knew that they had found what they had been searching for.
Bringing the events of today’s gospel into our own century, we are invited to see ourselves as part of the story. For each one of us is a fellow traveler with the Magi, fellow pilgrims, on a quest for Jesus Christ. Like the Magi, each one of us is involved in a journey – a journey of faith in the search for God. “A pilgrimage to the house of our father”. Each of us is caught up in a search for God and a struggle to be right with him.
Our Gospel today, invites us not only to turn the pages of the Gospel back to Bethlehem but also to turn the pages forward to 2022 so that we, too, can be part of the picture. The story of the wise men must be our story. Each one of us, like the three wise men searching for God. The journey of the Magi is our journey. Their journey is the beginning of the procession – the journey of all of us. We are all fellow travelers on the same holy journey.
Like the three original wise men from Persia, we too have our times of doubt, fear, and discouragement: when the journey seems too long and the road too rough and we are tempted to forget the journey and turn back. Our journey of faith is never comfortable – there are many difficulties that impede our personal quest for God. But like the Magi, we must be steadfast – strong in the conviction and determination that what lies at the end of the journey is well worth the effort of the journey.
On their journey, the Magi were guided by a star. The light of the star was: their source of strength and the source of hope which enabled them to press forward. On our journey, we too need guidance – not the guidance of a star – but rather the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit who scatters our darkness and reassures us along the way.
The Magi were intelligent men. They read the signs of the times. They endured hardship and trials to make the journey to Bethlehem – 2021 years ago. The magi are part of the Christmas story for one reason: they are the leaders in a long, unending procession of which you and I are a part of. They sum up in themselves what our Christian vocation is about. This is the feast of the blessed journey of all pilgrims whose quest is Christ.
With Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar, may we come one day to the end of our earthly journey, discovering what they discovered – the loving embrace of the Child of Bethlehem.