What makes the Magi so interesting? Why are we so fascinated by the story of the guiding star and the three distinguished travellers from the east who stopped to ask for directions? Is it because just as we are packing away our festive decorations and finishing the last of the choccies, the three wise men come along and give us an extra dimension to Christmas?
Perhaps it’s fair to say that scientists rely on facts over instinct. Scientists are people who are rather reluctant to believe anything that they can’t prove. What’s interesting about the three wise men is that as astronomers, they were guided by scientific fact and their knowledge of the stars, but they were also guided by spiritual curiosity. They were men with a mission to seek out truth and wisdom by whatever means. The wise men didn’t start out with answers, they had to study, think, learn and eventually follow their instincts. They placed their trust in a star that was behaving oddly! In this case, their trust was rewarded by finding the baby Jesus. They worshipped him because he was the answer to their spiritual quest. Unlike us, they didn’t pack Christmas up into the attic and get on with their lives as though nothing had happened. It’s likely that they would have gone home changed men. For the Magi, life would never be the same again.
So what can we learn from this eccentric trio? In the same way as the star got the wise men questioning, so too can we find guiding stars in our own lives; Signs of the times that force us to think. What circumstances get us looking for deeper meaning? The desire to leave a mind numbingly meaningless job perhaps? The need to make sense of an interesting book or the desire to study a new subject? We don’t need to cross a desert on a camel to find answers. We’ve got the luxury of TV and radio, the internet, libraries, newspapers, universities, family, friends and gut instinct. Perhaps the greatest thing we can learn from the story is that knowledge is not worth very much without wisdom.
The star of Bethlehem shone for Jews and Gentiles alike. The three wise men, who were not Jews, revealed to the world a God who is there for all who seek truth. Because of Jesus, all spiritual journeys are ultimately eternal journeys.