There are many good things we can only enjoy in the dark. Only in the dark can we delight in a Christmas light display. It is only in the dark that we can sit in our yard or on our porch or look out our window and stare at the wonder of the stars. Without the dark we cannot see the amazing light display of fireworks ringing in the New Year or celebrating some other event. We mark the beginning of each new day, not at the moment of dawn, but right in the middle of the dark of night.
In what darkness were the magi shrouded that compelled them to search for some sign in the light of a star? They are presented as astrologers, those who study the movement of celestial bodies in order to explain, interpret or predict events. The story may have historical conflicts. However, like its main characters who interpreted messages in the stars, the story still unfolds its messages to us.
It is obvious that these searchers of the stars were looking from their darkness for a significant light. When they saw this particular star at its rising, they recognized whose star it was. From their own learnings they set out for the obvious place, Jerusalem, the seat of power. The star did not lead them there, their own calculations were their guides. But, they had figured it wrong, and the error of their judgments had serious consequences later. When they moved from Jerusalem, the original star reappeared and guided them to the house in Bethlehem. All they found there was a young, poor mother and a baby. Not a great deal after such a long journey, we might think. For the magi it was enough, enough to stir their faith to offer homage, and to offer gifts. For those who recognized the star at its rising, and who had traveled a flawed course, this was enough to help them recognize the new light that would lead them out of their darkness to a new way.
Most of us have seen a star at its rising in our own souls at some stage in our lives and have set out to follow its course. Like the magi, the course we have followed has often been flawed by our own calculations and charting. We may have lost sight of the star and wandered into the darkness of what seemed to be the obvious course. This story and this season help to set us on the path again. We are reminded that in the simplest of circumstances the light of Jesus is found, a light that will lead us on the path of the his gospel to a renewed way of living, in the footsteps of the one whose star was seen at its rising, and by whose orbit we first desired to plot our course.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP