In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "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." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:1-12
Being in a new community and coming from a very different one, I am aware of the challenges that newness brings. The feast of Epiphany finds strange men from the east, following a star and finding the child Jesus. They offer there gifts and go home a different way. Their plans changed, the goal was not what was expected and they were thrown off course. And yet they offered their gifts, honoring the child, and finding God on earth right in their midst. They saw the light and followed to its source.
The story of the Magi is so familiar to us. We often think of young children, dressed in robes and turbans, filing down the aisle of a church in some play. Our familiar children in our familiar costumes. But these were strangers, with peculiar customs, with different language, dress and habits than anyone understood. They turned the community upside down looking for the child, and in doing so brought God's light to the whole world. In the three regal strangers we find that God's light and love is for everyone. In the mystery of the three strange wise men, we find ourselves no longer strangers to God.
On this Epiphany, I ask God to help me live in the light. May all that we do reveal God's love in our lives. May we recognize strangers as friends and all people as members of one family. And may we offer our gifts to God, knowing that what we offer, no matter how humble or strange, will be blessed and used for the reign of God, present here on earth.
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.