At least once a week - but usually many more times than that - I find myself staring at the sky at night.
Something about seeing the heavens and how amazing and huge they are has always captured my attention. I remember a time in college when my friends and I decided to stay up all night to watch a meteor shower.
We camped out on a baseball field in winter coats and sleeping bags and watched hundreds of meteors streak across the sky. It was amazing. And I couldn't help but think, "God made that." To see the vast complexity of the universe and how we are just one small part of that reality is to be made aware of the greatness of God.
God's presence is written across all of creation, but you have to have the eyes to see it. You have to be like the magi who we hear about in today's gospel.
These men were not part of the chosen people - they were foreigners from the East. They were probably a mix of what we today call astronomers and astrologers. They studied the heavens but they also saw more than just lights in the sky; and using all the knowledge and wisdom they had, they came to the conclusion that a king had been born in the land of Israel.
And so they came. They traveled from their home to another country and, after finding out that Bethlehem was where the messiah was prophesied to be born, the followed the star to the end of their journey.
Today, people might say, “This story is impossible. That’s not how stars work.”
That is true: stars don’t ordinarily point to specific spots on the Earth; but something more, something supernatural is happening here.
What amazes me most about this story is what the wise men do when they find the Holy Family and the king they had been searching for: after searching the heavens for signs and following a miraculous star, they find a poor, seemingly ordinary baby.
Do they leave disappointed? Do they go looking for the real “king of the Jews”?
No. “They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
These wise men can see what King Herod could not. Something special is here. Someone special is here.
I think that is the lesson for all of us on this feast of the Epiphany. God reveals Himself to us in different ways.
Sometimes it is in the grandeur of the universe. Beautiful things that capture our imagination and force us to acknowledge how small we are in the face of the Creator.
But at other times he meets us with humility. Can we see Him then?
Can we see Him in a child?
Can we see Him in the face of a stranger?
Can we find Him in our everyday, ordinary prayer?
Can we sense that God is with us when we look at the altar and see what appears to be just normal bread and wine.
The magi - the first of the nations to come to Jesus but not the last - they teach us to seek the Lord. To follow the signs He sends us, to listen to His words in the Scriptures - and then to accept Him with humility and openness when He appears.