This week marks the season of Epiphany, which coincides with the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the Wise Men (or Magi or astrologers) who seek Jesus by following a star. I often used to wonder exactly how anyone trusted the stars to lead them anywhere, because, you know, stars are tiny, and I have trouble with my cardinal directions even in the daylight.
Wise Men followed a star; my ancestors used the night sky to navigate the seas on their way to America, and I tend to miss my exit on the interstate, even when I’m using a GPS.
Where do you look for God?
The Wise Men had heard of a new king, the King of the Jews, and they went looking for him. They’d heard he’d just been born, though historically experts say the Wise Men were looking for him when he was about two years old. They checked in with the current king, King Herod, thinking that for sure one king would know where the other was.
But King Herod was threatened by this new king, though the latter was but a child. (People who love power tend to be threatened when it might be slipping away.) King Herod mined from the Wise Men all they knew about this new king and then sent them off to find the child. King Herod’s motives were not particularly pure, but he did not share that with the Magi (Matthew 2:1-8).
The Wise Men, being wise and all, continued to follow their star until it stopped over the place where Jesus was. They found Jesus with his mom, knelt to pay him homage, and flooded him with gifts, as one does (Matthew 2:9-11). They had been looking for God, and when they found him, their hearts burst with joy, scripture says. Their hearts also knew that sharing Jesus’ whereabouts with King Herod was not the logical next stop, so rather than acting as informants as they had been commanded, they bid farewell to the God they sought and went home another way.
Where do you look for God? Do stars show you the way? Does love? Does joy? Perhaps exactly the opposite fuels your journey… I know I tend to seek God when I think I feel God’s absence: in my loneliness, my frustration, my grief.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that no matter how good with directions you are (or aren’t!), God will always be found. Because ours is the God that created the universe and all that is in it, well, I’d wager a bet that there’s not a spot where God is not. May this be a comfort when the stars seem particularly far away and in the early days of a new year.