“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”Matthew 2:2,10 (NRSV)
When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
Following the Star (an Epiphany reflection)
Following the stars is something that we humans seem to think that we know a great deal about. We read tabloid gossip pages, watch Inside Edition (or even 60 Minutes), follow the coolest people on Twitter and Instagram and generally seek out celebrity and novelty wherever we can find it. We seek to be on top of the latest trends and connected to the most important people. In this obsessing over the latest star, we have come need to establish gradations of stardom as well. There are stars, superstars, megastars and greatest of all time stars. We have a whole hyperbolic language that seeks to establish a greater stardom with every new star that we see.
This culture of celebrity produces its own light pollution – if you will. The shear number of over-hyped celebrities cause us to invent new hyperbolic descriptions to try to distinguish between authentic stars from those who obtain a few minutes or even years of fame. In the process we keep hoping to find something true, something genuine. We hope to find the star that never loses its brightness. The star that can be trusted to have enduring worth.
Tomorrow [January 6] is Epiphany; that is the revealing of the light of the world. It is the day that the church commemorates the arrival of Magi in Bethlehem. (They are better known as the “three wise men” although they are not enumerated in scripture.) Their story is told in Matthew 2:1-12. They are the first non-Jews to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They come from the “East” – east is the traditional direction of earthly illumination (from the rising sun) and enlightenment (from the great cultures of Persia and Mesopotamia) – to seek their own illumination in a minor city (Jerusalem) of a far away empire (the Roman Empire). Moreover, they are uninterested in the local luminary, a.k.a. King Herod, a truly minor star who barely deserved the title “king.” As it turns out, they find the one who will unambiguously be called King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They find him lying in a manger, in a minor hamlet, of a minor country, far from the flickering lights of civilization and human celebrity. Then they offer priceless gifts, likely everything that they have of value, for the enduring honor of their presence in his life.
By the grace of God, they see past the light pollution of their day. (It is worth noting that the hyperbolic term “king of kings” was used of the “great” human kings of the east in Babylon and Persia, and later borrowed into Jewish and Christian use to refer to God.) They invest their lives and fortunes in the one who is found far from the earthly lights that often blind us. In giving their lives to this true light, who is still shining brightly today, they find overwhelming joy! (See also Mt 13:44-46.) Maybe we should consider making the same investment.
Pastor Neil Arnold
Grace Lutheran Church