"Magi," "wise men," "kings", "astronomers," "scientists of the night sky" : they've been called all this and more over the centuries. They appear but once in the Gospel, and that briefly, and then are never mentioned again. Where do they come from? Matthew writes simply: "from the East" : no mention of a specific city or particular country or nationality, just "from the East." How many were there? We don't know, though tradition claims three, and even names them: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. What attracted them to travel such a long distance, and over such difficult and dangerous terrain? A star, a very special and brilliant star of the night sky.
But we can surmise some things about them. For instance, they were well educated and familiar with the astronomy of their day. Odds are strong that they were wealthy, because they traveled by caravan over many miles and a long period of time; that itself was an expensive venture. They also brought along their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to give to the child king.
We can also surmise that these travelers had a sense of adventure. They left behind a comfortable and familiar world to set out on what some might call a monstrous misadventure! They were knowledgeable and insightful, continuously scanning the night skies for signs of a configuration of stars and planets indicating an event of extraordinary significance on earth. They persevered, and their perseverance paid off when finally the bright night star settled over the place where Jesus was with his family. They were not troubled to find the future King of kings living in such humble circumstances, and knelt respectfully to present their treasures to him.
What can you and I learn from these Magi? First, we can learn perseverance: no matter how difficult and complicated our life journeys may be, there is always a star guiding us in the right direction towards our goal. That star is our conscience based upon the Gospel of Jesus who is the Light that shines in and through the darkness.
Secondly, we can learn to trust our imagination. Life is more, much more, than we can see directly, hear directly and touch directly. When we follow our imagination, we enter a fuller and deeper world, a world wherein faith dominates, wherein our senses become more focused than ever, a rainbow world wherein noise becomes music, set-backs become new challenges and even our weakness becomes our strength.
Finally, we can learn to follow our dreams. Too often we are told that dreamers are losers, that life is tough so we have to be too. All through the Bible though, dreamers do win! Joseph, son of Isaac in the Hebrew testament, rises to positions of greatness in Egypt through interpreting the dreams of Egypt's pharaoh. In today's Gospel, the Magi are carefully warned in a dream not to report back to Herod, so they find a different route home. A short time later, Joseph & Mary are warned in a dream to take their little boy and flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod's murderous vengeance. So they do.
Yes, persevere, trust your imagination, follow your dream! If this sounds like New Year's resolutions, perhaps it should. May 2013 be a year of great blessings to you and to all people living under the brilliant stars of the night sky!