The story of the Magi is marvelous for this day in a number of ways. We live in a day in which skepticism of the Christian message at least in the western world abounds. This is called a post-Christian culture for good reason. Science and in fact life itself is thought to negate the Christian message and the proclamation of Jesus.
Enter the story of the Magi who indeed come from a different culture, apart from the covenant God made with Israel for the benefit of all humankind. But in part due to that revelation, and to God’s working in their own lives, they had a sense that there was something beyond their senses and learning, yet related to their learning, I’m imagining, which they needed to seek.
The star which they became aware of may have been some unusual heavenly occurrence such as a comet. How this plays out, even in some way leading them to the Christ child, we do not know. Maybe something natural but unusual. Or something we would call supernatural. But their inner witness comported with the outer witness, and they brought gifts fit for a king. Probably not knowing much about this kingship at this point. We see that they did not necessarily have a strong grasp if any on the Hebrew scriptures from the account in Matthew.
But they kept going. And they were rewarded for their perseverance. God’s light of revelation for the Gentiles had indeed dawned.
In this day and age we do well to be seekers of knowledge and truth. The knowledge part is well accepted in academia. It’s the truth part that gets seekers of it into trouble with that establishment. There is an inherent, inbred skepticism against imagining any truth, or any truth other than what science might provide. But while the “new atheists” have a popular following, yet by and large humanity still retains some sense of the divine.
Seeking carries with it the sense of humility. Acknowledging a lack in knowledge. And the seeking of the Magi carries with it an openness not only to knowledge, but also to truth. Their practice probably emphasized the knowledge part, indeed astrology while linked to deities had within it much of the elements of scientific work today, from what I understand of it. We probably can only surmise what their practice involved.
Science and faith is a hot button issue today. But unnecessarily so if one retains an openness not only to knowledge itself, but to truth. Of course the new atheists while denying truth talk as if they speak the truth. Science as practiced now has nothing to do with truth and should not pretend otherwise, and has everything to do with knowledge. But as the Magi long ago discovered, there is something more to life than the gathering of knowledge. And more than the best of what humankind has gathered as the meaning of it all. Meaning is found in a person. The truth is found in Jesus. A truth not just to be known in one’s head, but for all of life. A truth to be lived in. For all the world.