Star of Wonder
[Is.60:1-6; Eph.3:2-3, 5-6; Mt.2:1-12]
The stars at night have always been fascinating. In every age and every culture, astronomers have studied the stars closely, trying to reveal their secrets.
One thing these stargazers learnt is that the North Star is always in the same place, day and night. It’s not the brightest star, but its location never changes, so it became an important guidepost for sailors, pilgrims and other travellers.
Even runaway slaves in America followed the North Star in their flight to freedom in the 1800s. They called their escape route the Underground Railroad, and they memorised what they had to do in a song, Follow the Drinking Gourd.[i]
So, it’s not surprising that for many people, the stars came to symbolise hope, inspiration and new life.
There’s a star in Matthew’s Gospel today, but it’s not the North Star. It’s the Star of Bethlehem and it comes from the east. It, too, is a symbol of hope, inspiration and new life.
The Magi are widely believed to have been astrologers from around Persia, for they knew that this star signalled something important. That’s why they loaded up their camels and followed it for 1,000 kilometres or so, until they found baby Jesus, the ‘bright morning star’, swaddled in a manger (Rev.22:16).
There in Bethlehem, these Wise Men worshipped Jesus, they gave him their precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and then they returned home.
For most people, this is where the story ends. But there’s much more to it than that, because as Bishop Robert Barron tells us, this story really spells out for us what it means to search for God in our world today.
Let’s look at the story once again.
In the beginning, the Magi constantly study the sky, looking for signs of God’s purpose and meaning. And so it is with us: we must always be spiritually alert, looking for signs of what God is doing around us in our daily lives.
Then, once they find that star, the Magi decide to follow it, despite the long journey and all its discomforts.
Sometimes people today know what God wants them to do, but they do nothing about it. Perhaps it’s fear or laziness stopping them, but the Magi teach us to take action when God calls.
Next, when the Magi speak to Herod about the birth of a new King, he becomes sneaky and tries to use them to destroy the child. When we walk the path God sets for us, we too should expect opposition, because our world does not value Jesus at all. It’s always working to undermine him.
Then, the Wise Men arrive in Bethlehem and give Jesus their precious gifts. When we come to Christ, we, too, should open up the very best of ourselves and offer it to him. And remember this: our gifts of trust, love and worship are far more valuable to Jesus than gold, frankincense and myrrh.
And finally, the Magi return to their home country by another route. As Fulton Sheen once commented: of course they did, for no one comes to Christ and goes back the same way they came! [ii]
These Magi are called Wise Men for good reason: they can see what others, including King Herod and the Jewish leaders, cannot. They know that something mystical is happening, and they do something about it. They leave home and discover the source of all wisdom and joy.
Today, we have GPS and other technology to guide us in our travels, but they won’t get us far in our spiritual journey.
Like the Wise Men, we need to follow the one star that really does represent hope, inspiration and new life. That star is Jesus Christ.
Sadly, many of us get distracted and miss Jesus’ divine light, just as we might miss the soft light of the North Star. But when we look, we find that Jesus is always there: a constant beacon guiding us through the twists and turns of daily life; a lighthouse drawing us safely towards eternal salvation.
Let’s close with a story. Charles Blondin (1824-97) was a French acrobat who famously crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope some 300 times. In all, it’s said that he walked 10,000 miles on tightropes, and sometimes he even took a bike or a wheelbarrow with him. How did he achieve this? What was his secret?
Blondin had very good balance and lots of self-confidence, but he also always placed a large silver star at either end of his tightrope. Every time he crossed over, he fixed his eyes firmly on that star. He knew where he was going. [iii] [iv]
We, too, need to fix our eyes firmly on the bright morning star, Jesus Christ.
Jesus will guide us safely to where we’re going.
[ii] Bishop Robert Barron, Online Commentary on Matthew 2:1-12, 2021, adapted.