In the nativity narrative of St. Matthew, we are introduced to the shadowy and mysterious figures known as the Magi, or Wise Men, "who studied the stars and came from the East to Jerusalem." (2:1). If we are willing to reflect for a moment, I think that we can catch glimpses of ourselves in the journey of these men. In a deep sense, they reflect the many dimensions of our own individual journies of faith.
It is not difficult to imagine the many real dangers of their long journey. The resistance of their families, the efforts of colleagues to discourage them, the unbearable heat and freezing nights of the deserts they crossed, the danger of marauding thieves. And yet, they felt impelled to answer the call of the beckoning Star of Bethlehem, to worship the new-born King and lay their gifts at his feet. In this act of faith and obedience, "how happy they were, what joy was theirs!" (2:9). And finding the child "they knelt down and worshipped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and presented them to him." (2:11).
In this same way, that Star calls each of us to begin a life long journey to meet Jesus Christ, to acknowledge Him and make Him a part of our lives. In doing so, however, we need to acknowledge with honesty and forthrightness the difficulty of following Christ. But as with the Magi, we must undertake the journey knowing of its difficulty.
In the Christian life, discouragement comes in many forms. There is discouragement when it seems our prayers are not answered; when we work with honesty and integrity, but see others, who cut corners, prosper and advance; when we endure personal separation and loss, and when we need compassion and affirmation, and they are not to be found.
But through the mystery of faithful obedience, the Magi offered themselves and their gifts to Christ, transcending at that moment the difficulties and discouragements of their journey. And having met Christ they were changed men, and went home by another route, symbolizing their confidence and trust in the new direction their lives had taken. And to the wise men and women of every age, this same opportunity is given each Christmas when the star returns again, to shine anew in the heart of each of us.