Stars & Angels & Magi
by Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
Slum Children teaching Jesus how to ride his bicycle
Before the heavens and the earth were formed - “even before the Bible began” after the time of Middle Earth - our Sacred Legends of Christmas started with a new star in the heaves. Three Magi – those who could plot lunar calendars and maps from the stars, learned men from the East - “discovered” this new unique star.
Their oldest accounts, dating back a thousand years before Christmas, spoke of mystic and sacred meanings: they told of a Child who would be born – a special child – the Son of God. That a Star would point the way to the birth place on earth of this child.
They would know when they found an Infant child, lying in a manager, carried for by his mother and father. There also would be shepherds. And different from the frightening stories, that spoke doom and destruction. The birth of this child would be a blessing. So much so, that anyone who looked at this child would not die, but be blessed and see the very face of God. So the Magi traveled from their homes in the East to follow the Star.
And that is Christmas. The Blessed Virgin Mary and her husband Joseph and baby Jesus. Our own life-time journey also to follow the star to our own Bethlehem. We believe that Jesus was born there in that Bethlehem those two thousand years ago. Also this account added to the older accounts known to the Magi going back another thousand years exist and were believed.
With the new stories and legends that Jesus Himself told us when he grew up, told us that every time we look at the face of a child – especially an abandoned child, or even our own children, we too can and do see the very face of God.
Except we forget so very often. So often. Forget that even we too were once children filled with awe of life and dreams and hopes.
And of course, the Magi coming to Thailand … it’s probably not true, but it can be true,,,, IF you want it to be… that the Magi met some rural folks here in Thailand, on their round -about way, following the star, asked the Thai village folks to look after their camels till they returned, and could they borrowed some Thai elephants to continue their journey – to where ever the star would lead them.
As the Magi followed that one unique Star, our ancient ancestors believed that star was Jesus own unique star in the Zodiac. Of course, we have our own signs of the zodiac, Scorpio and Gemini and Pisces etc. but Jesus had his own. The only person on earth ever to have His own star.
But it’s never easy. There was a census. There had been some sort of recent rebellion in the Galilee area. To show submission to the Emperor, you had to return to your home village to pay a tax: the equivalent of one day’s wages to the authorities.
Your village was where your ancestors came from. Joseph was kin-folks of old King David, so off to Bethlehem – some 80 kms walk, and Mary his wife was several months pregnant. Our Scriptures do not mention it, but perhaps they too followed the Star.
They traveled maybe a week, pregnant Mary riding side saddle on a donkey and Joseph walking to Bethlehem. Jesus was born there. They were poor people but the whole world was poor. And when the child was born they say the Archangel Gabriel returned. This time with Choir of angels singing in high heavens over Bethlehem town. Town folks and shepherds could hear the angels singing for miles over the hills on that quiet night. Sometime soon afterwards, the Magi arrived.
Not all welcomed the news of the birth. Herod heard of a new king being born and ordered the soldiers. “Fine the child. Kill him. Kill all the boy children.”
Just after the Magi arrived, the angel appeared to Joseph again in a dream: Run! Run to Egypt.
That had been five difficult years ago. During those years, their family, Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, now five years old, following Joseph as the three of them wandered from job, Joseph the carpenter/tradesman .
Now an angel, perhaps the Arch Angel Gabriel appeared in another dream to Joseph that it was safe now to leave Egypt – to come home. Evil Herod was dead.
We don’t know, but most likely the soldiers reported back to evil Herod that they had killed all the boy children in the area. The soldiers with their sharp swords had come quickly – the killing had been swift. No child had escaped, those years ago in Bethlehem. So thought the soldiers.
Five long years in hiding. They came home. They settled down. Mary and Joseph felt the joy and love of caring for him. He could play hard now at five. But they had to teach him to run safely. Had to pick him up when he fell down, blow kisses on his knees when he fell, and scraped himself as five year olds do.
And for me? To find Jesus in the five year olds here in the Klong Toey Slums of Bangkok. Like a slum boy or girl learning to ride their bicycle. Begging them to be careful when they cross the street.
And you at home? To see Jesus in your neighborhood children: your own children.
And if you don’t see him, or if I don’t see him, I guess that means we are simply not looking hard enough, because he is there among the Poor in full view, every and each day. Among our own children and your own children. So please do look, and truly in these children, you can see the very face of God.
And finally, don’t forget to look up to the heavens and once again see the star, and listen to the clip clop of the camels walking through the hard desert sand, and listen to the singing of the angels. You can do all of this…. Simply if you try.