As we celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, two days ago, we were reminded that, “With God, all things are possible,” as Mary was opened to God’s will and brought forth the world’s savior. Today, I want to encourage us to be wise at all times, and no matter what happens, always follow the star.
A friend of mine just a couple of weeks ago, from Tennessee, wrote me to say that the Bethlehem Star could be seen in the night sky. It was last seen in 1226 and won’t be back for another 800 years. I was eager to look out at the night sky to see it for myself, but I live in Denair, and it was so foggy that my hand in front of my face couldn’t be seen, never mind a star in the sky. I was disappointed that I couldn’t see it, even though it was still there.
I have a lot of respect for the wise men that we heard about and celebrate today. They knew something special that I think we should remember too. First of all, like my friend, they were expectant. The wise men looked to the sky relying on the promise of God. I know we’re not supposed to have our head in the clouds, but we do need to keep an eye in the sky. Not only do the stars remind us of our connectedness to something greater, they also remind us that God is dependable. Every 800 years, like clockwork, that Bethlehem star appears. When times are difficult, we need to look to the stars and talk to God in an expectant way. “God, I don’t see a way through this difficult time, but I know I can always count on you. I don’t see a way, but I know that you have a way.” Be expectant, look to the sky, and speak with God from the heart.
A second thing we can learn from the Wise Men is that people who are expectant and prayerful are filled with joy. The reading said, “[The star came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing [it].” They were expectant and joyful. I think they knew the secret of a joyful life–seek God, be expectant, and celebrate often. I can just imagine those three fellas riding their camels, singing songs, and praising the God who always comes through to those who eagerly seek him day and night. I know that I struggle the most when I get bogged down with work, and bills, and earthy burdens. I lose my joy. Life begins to be a drudgery. When things get tough, Wise Men start reading the Scriptures, remember God’s promises, start talking to God, and start singing praises to God the Father.
Another thing we can learn from the Wise Men, is that we need to enter the house! They didn’t just get there and wait outside. Wise men know that although God can be found anywhere and everywhere, the real encounter, and the end of the journey demands that we enter through the door. That’s why Catholic Baptisms start at the doors of the Church. We begin our relationship with God by entering through the door. Every other grace and Sacramental encounter follow from entering into the Church and the mystery of God. My friends, we gotta get through the door if we want to be truly close to God.
I’ve got friends who don’t go to church, they find God on their own, and I know Christians who go to church just a couple times of year–you know, atheists, spiritual people, and once or twice a year Christians have a lot in common–they don’t talk about God much. They don’t look any different than anyone else who doesn’t follow the star. Wise Men know that if they want to encounter the savior, they’ve got to enter the door.
Finally, we can’t forget to give our gifts to God. I think I have the most respect for Melchior, the wise man who carried the gold. Probably not too hard to hang onto the frankincense and myrrh throughout the journey, but if you’re like me, it’s pretty easy to spend the gold! Wise men know that we need to be willing to pass up creature comforts and earthly wants to make sure that God gets some gold. The Wise Men knew that sometimes earthly wants have to wait so that we can give our treasure to Jesus. I fear that too many of us enter the house with frankincense and myrrh, but come up a little short when it’s time to pony up on the gift of gold.
On this Feast of the Epiphany, my prayer is that we have an epiphany! I hope that God has opened our hearts to some important lessons from these wise men: Be expectant always, be filled with joy, enter the door, and leave your gift. They were Wise Men, but we can be too.