A woman takes her 16-year-old daughter to the doctor. The doctor says, “Okay, Mrs. Jones, what’s the problem?” The mother says, “It’s my daughter, Debbie. She keeps getting these cravings, she’s putting on weight, and is sick most mornings.” The doctor gives Debbie a good examination, then turns to the mother and says, “Well, I don’t know how to tell you this, but your Debbie is pregnant – about 4 months, would be my guess.” The mother says, “Pregnant?! She can’t be, she has never ever been left alone with a man! Have you, Debbie?” Debbie says, “No mother! I’ve never even kissed a man!” The doctor walked over to the window and just stares out it. About five minutes pass and finally the mother says, “Is there something wrong out there doctor?” The doctor replies, “No, not really, it’s just that the last time anything like this happened, a star appeared in the east and three wise men came over the hill. I’ll be darned if I’m going to miss it this time!”
Dear Friends! Gospel gives us very little information about the Magi. In fact, if you listen carefully to the Gospel, you will notice that the Bible does not tell us how many Magi there were or how the Magi travelled to Bethlehem.
Christian tradition worked quickly to fill in these details. Because there were three gifts, it concluded, there must have been three Magi. Because Isaiah talks about travelers from the East riding camels, it was concluded that the Magi came to Bethlehem on those very animals. In time the tradition gave the Magi names: Balthazar, Caspar, and Melchior. Over the centuries, legends were created that expanded the exploits of the Magi further.
Even though we know few things about the Magi, the story of the Magi is still very important. It is an example for our own lives. The story is a story of faith, and it tells us two things about faith: that we must trust that God is leading us, and that we must trust when it seems that God is not leading us too.
The Magi trusted that God was leading them. They saw in the star a sign of God’s presence and God’s direction. Now we can be sure that there were many people in their own country (whatever country that was) who thought that they were foolish for doing this. They were certainly asked, “Why are you trusting that star? There’s a whole sky full of stars. What makes you think that this one would lead you in a good direction, that this star would not lead you astray?” All very reasonable questions. But none of those questions prevented the Magi from believing that God was working through this star, directing them and guiding them to God’s purposes.
In the same way, we need to trust that God uses signs in our own lives to guide and direct us. We might sense something about a particular person that indicates we should try to know that person better, deepen the relationship. There might be some feeling within us that moves us to think, “I need to reconsider my job, and what direction I want to give in my life.” There might be an event in our life that makes us think, “I need to be more generous, more hopeful. I need to trust more and believe more, perhaps forgive more.” God can use these and any other signs as a way of directing us. And when we sense that this is what God is doing, we, like the Magi, should choose to follow.
So the first thing that is important from the Magi story is that we trust that God is leading us. The second is perhaps even more important. We must trust when it seems that God is not leading us. The Magi followed the star to Jerusalem, and there it disappeared. They gave their lives to the direction of that star, and then suddenly it was not there any longer. The trail had run cold. Abandoned and without directions in a strange city, the Magi did not panic. They consulted with Herod, they followed his instruction, and they set off for Bethlehem. In time the star reappeared, but not until they had traveled a significant distance without it.
In our lives, too, there are times where we lose direction. We begin with confidence, but then somehow lose our way. We start with clarity, but then our life becomes confused. In those moments we, like the Magi, need to continue to trust that God is with us. God is not one who begins to lead us and then abandons us. The God who sent the star is capable of continuing to lead us even without the star.
On this feast of the Epiphany, the Magi give us an example of faith. The Magi would have never reached their destination had they not continued to trust. We, like them, should trust that God is faithful, both when the star appears and when the star disappears, both when the way is clear and when the way is confused. God remains faithful, and God will lead us to our destination. There, like the Magi, we will find salvation.