Many of us are the intellectual great, great, grandchildren of a Greek philosopher named Anaxagoras, who in 465 BC looked at our sun and said something to the effect of, “he isn’t a god. The sun is an it. It’s just a hot stone.” And so began the disenchantment of the world. We moderns know that stars are hot, very hot. And that they tend to be big, very big. So it might seem unlikely that big, hot, star would wander off course, and come close in order to mark a small town, and a small house, and a small child.
The gospel of Matthew invites into a world of meaning and mystery. It invites us to be the spiritual great, great, grandchildren, of magi. People, who like most of us, were Gentiles. Men who spent their time captivated by the heavens, believing they had something to reveal and tell us.
Psalm 19 says, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
And so here is a story of men from the end of the world, who hear stars speaking, who hear the voice of the heavens as they pour forth knowledge. As they make their way to Israel, the revelation they find is not a philosophy, or a science, or a religion. It’s a person.
As Rick has been reminding us in his emails, reality is personal. We can believe along with the grandchildren of Anaxagoras that stars are just so much meaningless, leftover, gaseous flatulence from the big, well, let’s call it a bang. Or, we can believe that stars in all their hotness, and bigness, and beauty, reveal the glory of God. And surprisingly enough, as the wise men learn, the greatest glory of God is this: a little, vulnerable, person named Jesus.
We are busy, stressed, urban, scientific, cynical people. I doubt that many of us get to wander out to the country much and listen for star speech. But let us not be completely deaf to them. As we celebrate Epiphany, let us pause and hear. Let us listen to how they reveal the glory of God. Let us think about the star around which we revolve, that day to day gives us warmth and light. As we feel the warmth of star light on our skin, let us know that it is a gift, and there is a giver.
Matthew says that when the star stopped, the wise men were overwhelmed with joy. Now they had the chance of a lifetime: to bow, to worship, to pay homage, to give gifts back to the one who had given them the stars.
Today marks the day that a star stopped above a small town, and a small house, and a small child. Can you hear what the star is revealing? What will you do? How will you respond?