Peace and Joy in this new year!
Technically we are still in the season of Christmas, the wise men (however many of them there were and whoever they were), are still travelling along, following a star that they believe will lead them to the child who has been born king. I have lost count of the times that I have heard or read Matthew's account of the visitors from the East. Remarkable because they were outsiders who had felt the call to come and worship this special child, that they trusted in their reading of the signs enough to make the journey. Even when it took an unexpected turn, they persevered and were overwhelmed with joy when they saw that the star had stopped and they could complete their mission – to worship the king, the Messiah.
One aspect which I have only noticed this year was that Herod, secretly, called for the wise men when they had stopped at his palace to ask for directions. Why in secret? He had already consulted the chief priests and the scribes about where the Messiah was to be born and they had confirmed that it was in Bethlehem. Yet he spoke with them away from the crowds, asked for exact details of the star's rising and sent them on their way, assuring them that he too wished to worship the child. All done in secret. It is an unsettling interruption to this wonderful story of angels and miracles, it puts us on our guard and reminds us that this was a real world that Jesus was born into, with its rivalries and threats, fears and manipulations running under the surface.
They obeyed Herod's direction – did they have any choice? But it was also confirmed by the reappearance of the star. It must have been such a relief for them to see it shining and leading them as it had done before – they were overwhelmed by joy even before they went inside and saw Mary and the baby.
The story of the wise men has so many resonances for today – we are trying to navigate our way through tricky and challenging times. Sometimes the way seems clear, and we can see and follow the star easily. However, even when we are confident in our reading of the 'signs', there will be times when we doubt the way we are being taken and we have to stop and ask questions and for clarification. In turn, the responses need to be discerned and we need to not be afraid to follow another path if needed.But mostly we need to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with joy, not just at the completion of a task but at various points in the journey beforehand.
This time of year will bring different feelings for each of us – but let each of us make the space to come before Jesus and pay him homage.