Whatever the astronomical event that lies behind the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem, it is clear that St Matthew has in mind the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 60: “Arise, Jerusalem, shine – for your light has come.”
This prophecy speaks about the light of the Lord breaking into the world, and people of all nations coming to bring gifts.
When the star had safely delivered the Magi to the stable, its work was over. We can no longer train our telescopes on a point of light in the night sky and say, “There it is!” But there are stars that will safely guide us to Christ, should we be wise enough to seek them.
The clue to these stars is seen in the word “Jerusalem” in Isaiah’s prophecy. This symbol, politically potent then as now, has also real theological potency. For Christians is can stand for three things.
It can stand for the Church, the “New Jerusalem”. The light which can guide us to Christ shines in the Church’s teaching and liturgy, including (of course) the Scriptures.
But it can also stand for Our Lady. She, along with the saints of whom she is Queen, can point the way to Christ.
But lastly it can stand for us, those who have been baptized. We, too, are called to “Arise, Shine!” It is a salutary thought, at the start of 2013, that for many of those we meet, we are the star sent by God to guide them to Jesus.