Following A Star Matthew 2:1-2

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him  Matthew 2:1-2

Following a Star

1. “We saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” While in the East they saw the star of the King of the Jews. They saw, probably, at first, one of the fixed stars, to which they were led, in the course of their inquiry, to attach this specific value; and as it shone out on them night by night over their western horizon, they determined to walk in the direction from which it shone, or, as we should say, to follow it. They followed it, accordingly, day by day; night by night they gazed wistfully at it, and then rose to follow it again; they gazed and followed, and so they crossed the desert and reached the city to which even the heathen East had learned to ascribe an exceptional sanctity. And as their coming became known at gatherings of the priesthood, and in the palace of the king, they learned how an ancient prophecy had ruled that He whom they sought would be born in Bethlehem.

Many a starry night I have followed a road leading due south, and over the road hung Betelgeux of Capella (westering with the others), and as I walked the star “went before me,” and when I stopped it “stood” over farmstead or cottage. It was no strain of imagination to say that the star led me on; on the contrary, the optical illusion was so strong that while one was in motion one could scarcely help thinking of the star as advancing just as I myself advanced.1 [Note: W. Canton, in The Expositor, 5th Ser., ix. 471.]

What sort of a star was it which they tell us started them on their journey? Not a planet, clearly, nor a conjunction of planets, as Kepler first suggested; for the planets were malign for the Magi. It seems most natural to think of a Nova, one of those sudden apparitions that tell us of a stupendous outburst in the depths of space, bringing to our eyes a new star that in a few weeks or months fades away from sight. We remember the Nova in Perseus which in February 1901 added a brief unit to the small company of our first-magnitude stars. But the Star of the Magi need not have been as bright as this. Professional astrologers would notice a new star which had no chance of observation by amateurs; and whether it was a Nova or not, the place of the star would probably count for more with them than its brilliance. My preference for the postulate of a Nova comes from the naturalness of their quest for an identification of the Fravashi they would associate with it. They had no doubt met with numerous Jews in their own country, and had knowledge of their Messianic hopes, which may even have struck them with their resemblance to their own expectation of Saoshyant. A dream which would supply the sought-for identification is all that is needed to satisfy the demands of the narrative. Their five miles' walk due south from Jerusalem gave time for the star, if seen low down in the sky in S.S.E. when they started, to be culminating just over Bethlehem when they drew near to the town; and men so deeply convinced of the significance of stellar motions would of course welcome this as fresh evidence that the end of their quest was gained.2 [Note: J. H. Moulton, Early Zoroastrianism, 283.]

2. The star which might lead to the cradle of the Divine Infant shines at some time into every human conscience. God endows us all, without exception, with the sense and perception of a distinction and a law; the distinction between right and wrong, whatever right and wrong may be; and the law of obedience to right, when once it is discovered. And if a man makes the most of this endowment, instead of shunning or scorning it or doing it violence; if he allows himself to reflect that such inward legislation implies a Lawgiver, and to search for other traces of His presence and action; then, assuredly, is he on the way to learn more.

The work of the inner light is that of judgment. It leads us to distinguish between right and wrong, and continues to lead us according as we are faithful to the light already given. We must act on these judgments. If certain things are seen, in the light, to be wrong, we must be faithful and put them on one side. Further, the light is a universal light. It informs us of truths—truths of faith and truths of conduct which are valid for all men. If we either refuse to obey the particular disclosures of truth given to us, or if we regard them as purely private matters, we do, in effect, deny the light, and fail to recognize its true character. It is useless to profess to believe in the inner light in general, and then to refuse to accept and follow the findings of the enlightened conscience.1 [Note: H. G. Wood, George Fox, 115.]

There is a light which flashes and is gone, and yet survives. There is a light which eludes, but never deceives. There is a light which guides as it flies. There is a light which comes only to those who seek in the night, and can feel after what they cannot find, and can still nurse “the unconquerable hope,” and can never lose heart. There is a light which is for ever in motion, and can be retained only by moving with it. There is a light which is always just ahead of where you stand. You must follow if you would arrive; and the following must never cease. He, the grey magician, has done but this one thing faithfully from end to end of the long years. “I am Merlin, who follow the gleam.” His whole character, his whole secret, lies in that from the first days when

In early summers,
Over the mountain,
On human faces,
And all around me,
Moving to melody,
Floated The Gleam,

down to the end, when

I can no longer,
But die rejoicing,
For thro' the Magic
Of Him the Mighty,
Who taught me in childhood,
There on the border
Of boundless Ocean,
And all but in Heaven,
Hovers The Gleam.


O young Mariner,
Down to the haven,
Call your companions,
Launch your vessel,
And crowd your canvas,
And, ere it vanishes
Over the margin,
After it, follow it—
Follow The Gleam.1 [Note: H. S. Holland, Vital Values, 24.]

to be continued