“Whatever it was, it is significant that God met them in their own medium.”

This powerful quote from David Guzik’s “Enduring Word” commentary on Matthew 2 caught my breath away. I do a fair amount of commentary reading on each scripture that I am studying and sometimes a single beautiful sentence will take my thinking into a different place.

So, let’s back up and unpack this.

We are in that familiar place in the post-nativity drama where King Herod had just discovered that Jesus was born. In his anxious paranoia, he immediately set out to destroy anyone who might challenge his fragile grip on his throne. The scriptures record that he was frightened, and his fear of this usurper baby spread throughout his minions and his city.

Enter the magi, which is translated to astronomer or philosopher. These men studied the skies, the stars, the planets, and the ancient astrological predictions. They realized that a king had been born to the Jews. Not kings themselves, these curious scientists traveled many miles following Christ’s star to Bethlehem:

Matthew 2 (Common English Bible)

2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star in the east and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him, and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah,
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

The Jewish scholars confirmed what the Eastern astronomers knew: something astronomical had happened and it needed to be seen. When the magi reached the place where the Epiphany star rested over Bethlehem they were overwhelmed with joy.

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out, and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen in the east, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,  they were overwhelmed with joy. 

Let us stop here for a moment as well.

The magi were gentiles. They were not Jews who had anticipated the Messiah’s arrival for generations. They were stargazers, and planet-watchers … in other words, men of learning and science. Religion paid no part in their quest; they were drawn by the appearance of a spectacular vision in the heavens and their curiosity drove them to find answers. Or, as Guzik states, “Whatever it was, it is significant that God met them in their own medium.” Planets, stars, imploding new universes, supernovas … whatever that “star”was, God chose their medium to communicate the birth of his son to them. He spoke to them from the star, knowing that they were looking at the skies.

God always speaks to us in our own medium. He uses people, situations, events, callings, tragedies, blessings, joy, etc. to speak his language of love and hope into our lives.

Are you listening?

11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

God also speaks words of warning into our lives when we are headed in the wrong direction. How hard he works to keep us going in the right direction! How disappointed he must be when we continue to go our own way, despite his warnings.

God invites us to look around today and discover where he is speaking to us. And then we are invited to follow.

That’s what wise people do.

This image is dominated by NGC 7469, a luminous, face-on spiral galaxy approximately 90 000 light-years in diameter that lies roughly 220 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. Its companion galaxy IC 5283 is partly visible in the lower left portion of this image. This spiral galaxy has recently been studied as part of the Great Observatories All-sky LIRGs Survey (GOALS) Early Release Science program with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, which aims to study the physics of space. Photo credit to the James Webb Space Facebook page.

A Dawning Radiance

I have friends who religiously get up before dawn and make their way to the beach to watch the sunrise. I deeply admire their commitment to this. You have been the beneficiary of one particular friend, Michelle, who allows me to use her beautiful pictures in my devotionals. If we were dependent on just me for pictures, all you would get is sunset pictures. I am NOT a morning person! Just ask my family.

Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 every year. It is a day that recalls the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem. They followed the glorious Epiphany star that had arisen over the town on the night of Jesus’ birth, and remained there as a guide in the darkness. It became symbolic of the light that beckoned people to step out of their own darkness into the glory of Christ.

When we say we have “had an epiphany,” we are letting others know that a lightbulb has gone off in our brain and we’ve had an enlightenment.

Today’s lectionary passage takes us back to Isaiah’s words, which foreshadow the Messiah’s arrival as a light that would come upon the darkness of the earth:

Isaiah 60 (Common English Bible)

Arise! Shine! Your light has come;
    the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.
Though darkness covers the earth
    and gloom the nations,
    the Lord will shine upon you;
    God’s glory will appear over you.
Nations will come to your light
    and kings to your dawning radiance.

Verse 3 places us squarely at the scene in Bethlehem, where we kneel in wonder with the kings. Isaiah describes the glory of Christ as a “dawning radiance”. Let’s pause there for just a moment. It is the daily dawning radiance that dispels the darkness of night. Imagine our world without the sun! We would not survive. We need its warmth, its brilliance, and its constant presence in our days to light up our pathways. That is exactly what Christ does. He is the constant presence in the darkness of today’s reality that lights our pathway … straight back to him.

Lift up your eyes and look all around:
    they are all gathered; they have come to you.
Your sons will come from far away,
    and your daughters on caregivers’ hips.
Then you will see and be radiant;
    your heart will tremble and open wide,
    because the sea’s abundance will be turned over to you;
    the nations’ wealth will come to you.

Isaiah reminds us that we can be radiant, too. God’s glory shines through us when we lift up one another in “care, prayer, and share.”

We are invited to care for the things God cares about … the marginalized, the hungry, the animals, the poor, the addicted, the imprisoned, the planet … these are the things God cares about.

We are invited to pray for the hurts and concerns of those around us, and pray for forgiveness of our sins. We can lift up our nation and pray for our future. We can pray for our leaders, our children, and those in far away places.

And God is counting on us to share our abundance with people who don’t have anything. Food banks, homeless shelters, nursing homes filled with lonely people … these are places where we can share ourselves and be a light in someone’s darkness.

Countless camels will cover your land,
    young camels from Midian and Ephah.
They will all come from Sheba,
    carrying gold and incense,
    proclaiming the Lord’s praises.

How will you respond to this call to be a dawning radiance today? Arise and shine! Your light has come.

Dawn’s Radiance by Michelle Robertson