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Star Light

Matthew 2:1-12

The Rev. Jon Roberts

5 January


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:

6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; 8 and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; 11 and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Star Light

The three wise men entering Bethlehem by Welsh artist Rhys Jenkins, early 20th C.

Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.[1]

That’s Richard Girling’s rhyme, but if you prefer Walt Disney’s version, you simply add,…

“I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.
We'll make a wish, and do as dreamers do,
And all our wishes
Will come true.”

All of us have wished upon a star hoping that the answers to all of our questions will come true; but often what we don’t see is that which is right in front of us.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decide to go on a camping trip. After dinner and a lovely bottle of wine, they lay down for the night, and go to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see." Watson replied, "I see millions of stars." "What does that tell you?" Watson pondered for a minute.
"Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets."
"Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo."
"Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three."
"Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant."
"Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow."
"What does it tell you, Holmes?" Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke:
"Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!"

Today is a remarkable and amazing day because it is a time where light reveals glory, up close and from afar. We are like three kings who journey afar, over “field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.”[2] Today is January fifth, which means, technically, theologically, liturgically we are on the twelfth day of Christmas. The manger and baby Jesus are still in sight and all of the halls remain decked with Christmas trees, ornaments and candles. It is also a wonderful sight to see the three wise men have finally made it to the manger, a tradition of slow and steady movement of these statues from one side of the church to the other. We rejoice in knowing they found him. They found Jesus and they come bearing gifts. A little late, but at least they made it.

These men have been glorified by the western church for years and they mark the Epiphany of God to illustrate one of the first miracles. Some say the miracle is that they actually located Jesus in the manger by following a start that was light years away. How could that be accurate? A funny comment heard was that if men, such as these, would have simply stopped and asked for directions, they would have arrived much faster. Christmas turns to Epiphany, the season of observing Jesus’ miracles. Even as a baby, he had the power to lead people to him.

There is an even greater miracle going on here. None of these three men were actual kings and their wisdom is decided by their trade. In all probability the “magi” were more closely related to a modern day David Copperfield, a magician who uses slight of hand and mirrors to cloak the truth. The use of gold, frankincense and myrrh, were used as part of their performance. It adds more to the story, does it not? When King Herod calls three “wise men” into his chamber, he was looking for those who were smarter than the rest, could move quickly and keep secrets.[3] Oh how God can choose the right people to carry out His will. This alone is not the greatest miracle here. Most importantly is that they were not Jewish, yet the star of David is arguably in front of them. This kerygmatic emblem of antiquity is connecting prophecy of old with the new covenant of God with His creation through the person of Jesus who is Messiah; and later through the emblem of the Cross.

​The star of David, seen as two triangles inverted upon one another, expressing six points is not mentioned in the Bible, but the prophecy of the Messiah coming from the direction of David, is. References of this king’s battle armor bearing the star can be found as well as archeological evidence of the symbol in his son’s, King Solomon’s temple. The star predates David and goes back into antiquity as a studied and hallowed symbol, pointing the way, providing hope. The star for the people of Judah did not actually become widely associated with their nation until the 19th century and not long afterward when millions were given a patch with the star to wear on their breast during the Holocaust. For the people of Israel, they followed a star for hope of deliverance and salvation.

​The miracle of the Epiphany occurred when God called the Gentiles and the Jews to come together. Like two triangles, they are held tightly together, superimposed to complement one another. By law and faith, God has shown the way, His light and glory manifested in the following of a star. For all ages past, present and future our eyes and attention are called to look up and to see God. Knowing we had great difficulty with this, God gave us His son, in a manger, so that we may gaze down and see him as well. From afar, God reveals light and glory through the star. Close by, God reveals the same, through Jesus, that sacred name.

Perhaps you do not see what is right in front of you. Everything must add up for your wishes to come true. You take into account all things through astronomical, even astrological ways; theological and even meterological ones as well. Are your questions being answered? Are you on a quest to determine how the mystery is revealed? Come to church because in this place we follow what is right in front of us. Jesus meets us close and takes us far. We are like the wise men on a journey to find God. What better place to start than in this church. It is through the Church that the miracle continues and as St. Paul once said, it is where, “we bring to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ.” and it is where, “the wisdom of Christ in its rich variety might now be known.”[4] This becomes the place where we slowly make our way back to what has always been right in front of us. The simplicity of a baby in a manger joined with the light and glory of God’s work in the galaxy above. What a wondrous occurrence.

You may be asking, if I come to Church how can I be wise and know where to go from here? How do I offer myself in prayer. Maybe, later on, before bed your prayer can go like this…

Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.
I will make a wish as dreamers do,
And pray dear Jesus,
To be with you.[5]

[1] R. Gerlings, Hey, Diddle, Diddle and Other Best-Loved Rhymes (Windmill Books, 2009), p. 32.
[2] John Henry Hopkins, Jr. We Three Kings, 1857.
[3] Matthew 2:1-12
[4] Ephesians 3:1-12
[5] The Rev. Jon Roberts

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