The Visit of the Wise Men
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, 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.’ ”
After being interviewed and appointed to my first post in Health Care Chaplaincy, one of the interviewing panel shared with me that the task of the panel that day, having interviewed several candidates, was to make a choice between experience and passion. I did not have the experience that some deemed necessary for the appointment, having newly graduated from Theological studies at University but I was passionate about the role. (It also served me well that I had previously worked as a biomedical scientist in a hospital haematology lab.) In this newly created role it was deemed that fresh vision might serve more effectively than tried and tested methods.
When King Herod wanted to know where the King of the Jews had been born, the Chief Priests and the scribes, who had studied such things, were able to tell him: "In Bethlehem of Judea." Their reading and learning informed their knowledge. While the wise men followed a star.
Following a star, pursuing a dream, leads to rookie mistakes. The wise men tipping off Herod to the presence of a potential rival, so the story goes, led to the Massacre of the Innocents and I, with many others, have often questioned their wisdom. But perhaps there is something to be preferred in making a response based on the warm rush of instinct than on one based on the cold light of knowledge. The Wise Men's passion or the Chief Priest's and Scribe's knowledge - which would you choose? The safety of controlled learning or the risk of being changed by responding to opportunity that is to be found around every corner? Still there are choices to be made, encounters to be discovered - that is the journey of Epiphany.