Who were these mysterious wise men who followed Christ’s star from a distant land all the way to a small house in the sleepy village of Bethlehem? In the Greek they are not called wise men, but by the name magi. Which probably means that they were something akin to professional astronomers or astrologers. The word magician is probably too strong. But there was a mystical element to their vocation. Magi were taught how to discern divine messages by reading sacred texts and closely observing the night sky.
Yet, our Lord drew these pagan men out of their darkness through the light of his star. He illumined their understanding through the words of his servant Micah. And he manifested himself to them in the arms of his mother. It’s as improbable of an ending as one could ever imagine for this epic journey. But there, at the end of their long and winding road, these magi promptly forgot about the star as they fell down on their faces and worshiped the light of the world.
Today we observe both the proper feast day and the beginning of the season known as Epiphany. Epiphany means manifestation—it’s the season in which the church meditates on the revelation of Christ Jesus to the world. But I suppose its also a time for us to rejoice in the fact that Christ still draws those who are far from him into the light of true faith. And it’s a time to pray fervently that the light of Christ would illumine those around us who are still sitting in darkness. It’s a time to pray for wayward sons and daughters, for ex-wives and ex-husbands, for antagonistic co-workers and bosses, for materialistic friends, and for skeptical relatives. Because there is no distance that the light of Christ cannot overcome. No darkness that the light of his Word cannot penetrate. Epiphany is the celebration that our Lord comes into the world to win it all back. And he has. And he is. And he will.