Advent: Our Christian journey is like that of the Three Kings
By Deacon Guadalupe Rodriguez
Every Advent we prepare ourselves for the birth of our Lord with lights, lights and more lights. We string lights on Christmas trees, wreaths and Nativity sets; we outline windows, rooftops and walkways. We decorate our downtown trees and light poles with lights and some neighborhood yards are aglow with lighted reindeer, snowmen and Nativity scenes. Our desire to celebrate Christmas with lights brings to mind the very first words God spoke in Creation, “Let there be light” (Gn 1:3).
But there is a deeper and more profound light to discover – it’s the light, the star, discovered by the Three Kings. As an Old Testament prophecy says, “A star shall advance from Jacob, and a scepter shall rise from Israel” (Nm 24:17).
The Jewish scribes and scholars missed this special light, but the Three Kings did not. While Matthew 2:1 calls them, “magi from the east” other prophetic Scriptures refer to them as wise men and kings, “Arise! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you … Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by the radiance of your dawning … Caravans of camels shall cover you, dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense and heralding the praises of the Lord,’” (Is 60:1-14).
Tradition tells us their names were Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar, and in 2005 during World Youth Day, Pope Benedict XVI venerated their relics at the Cathedral of Cologne saying, “It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been part of their destiny and was finally about to begin.”
The vocation of the Three Kings was to follow a star that would change their lives as prophesied in sacred Scripture: “May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. May all kings bow before him, all nations serve him … Long may he live, receiving gold from Arabia” (Ps 72:10-15).
They came from different countries and from the ends of the earth traveling for two years with one burning question in their hearts. This question persuaded them to leave their kingdoms, their treasures, and the comforts of their lives. This question so consumed them day and night that they were willing to endure danger, difficulty, discomfort and displacement from their very thrones. The question for them was and for all Christians now is, “Where is the newborn king?” (Mt 2:2).
They “never yielded to discouragement or the temptation to give up and go home. Now that they were so close to their goal they had no other question than this,” Pope Benedict XVI said.
As they neared the source of light, the star suddenly disappeared from their sight. Their life was darkened. There was no light to follow. Did they give up and lose hope? No, in their zeal they dared to speak with Herod.
History tells us that Herod not only killed all the children 2 years of age and younger trying to destroy Jesus, but he even put his adult sons to death when they threatened his throne. Therefore, these Three Kings, having lost sight of the star, risked everything in approaching Herod about the question smoldering in their hearts.
As soon as the Three Kings left Herod’s presence, the star reappeared, “And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Mt 2:9-10).
Despite doubts, reservations and fear in their hearts at having lost sight of the star, they did not give up. They were obedient to the desire in their hearts to seek the star. Like the magi, we must observe the signs with which God is calling and guiding us.
“When we are conscious of being led by him, our heart experiences authentic and deep joy as well as a powerful desire to meet him and a persevering strength to follow him obediently,” Pope Benedict XVI said.
The Three Kings completed their journey and discovered their true vocation as the first believers, worshippers and witnesses of Jesus. Upon their encounter with the newborn Jesus, “The magi are filled with awe by what they see; heaven on earth and earth in heaven; man in God and God in man; they see enclosed in a tiny body the One whom the entire world cannot contain,” St. Peter Chrysologus wrote in the fifth century.
At the end of the journey, they no longer needed the star to return home since they had the true light of Jesus in their hearts lighting their way. They then went peacefully via another route. The practical reason for taking a different route was to flee Herod. But the spiritual reason was because they had been changed. When we encounter Jesus, our lives change and we can no longer pursue the same path we were traveling. We too must leave our old route of sin and never return the same way we came so that we can nourish and guard the new light of Christ that is in our hearts.
This Christmas let us take time to look at all the Christmas lights and stars that abound. Let us ask Jesus for the special light of grace to discover him as “the newborn King” truly present in the Eucharist. Let us ask him to reveal our vocation as his believers, worshippers and witnesses.