January 04, 2019
“Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas; star and angels gave the sign.”*
We’ve probably all heard a lot of the angel-singing songs this Christmas. They’re some of my favorites, after all —Angels We Have Heard on High—and all that. But how about The Star? As far as I can tell, The Star doesn’t show up until Matthew 2:2 when the wise men tell King Herod that they’d observed a “star at its rising.” It seems these wise men were star-watchers in the East and believed that a new star signaled the arrival of a king. So they packed up their camels and gifts and rode west, following The Star.
It could be that these star-watchers were some kind of kings in their own land, so it made sense to stop at King Herod’s and inquire about the birth of a new king. Maybe it was protocol or maybe it was just a whim, to stop at Herod’s. But that doesn’t seem that wise to me—stop at the mean King Herod’s house (surely his reputation or that of his father preceded him) and ask him about the birth of a King of the Jews? And, it turned out they didn’t need him after all, because once they left his palace, there was The Star again, ready for them to follow to Jesus’ house.
After the wise men met Mary and Jesus and gave the beautiful and expensive but not so practical gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they went home by another road. What are we to make of this story, especially as we celebrate Epiphany this Sunday, January 6? One thing we know is that the story extends Jesus’ reach, showing all of us that he didn’t come just for the Jews, his circle of nuclear family and their friends. Another thing we know is that Epiphany means “to reveal or show” usually in a sudden, striking way. We don’t know how this journey changed the wise men, but I like to imagine that they were never the same again, that they were shown something quite life-changing.
I wonder if Epiphany is meant to show us who to follow. Like the wise men took the risk to follow The Star, maybe we are called to do that, too. And not just any star, but The Star, the one in whom love came down, and comes down still.
Epiphany blessings, Sharon
*from the hymn, “Love Came Down at Christmas”, United Methodist Hymnal #242.