The Wise Still Seek Him

By Rev. Canon Stewart Murray, Incumbent at St. Barnabas, Ottawa

In the midst of a busy morning, sitting in traffic, I was behind a car with a wonderful collection of bumper stickers. They ranged from one proudly proclaiming “this car climbed Mt. Washington” to a collection of stickers on the back window showing a family of Star Wars fans with a mom, a dad, two children and even the dog depicted as stormtroopers! But one sticker, rather faded and torn read “Wise men still seek Him.”

This refers, of course, to the story of the coming of the Wise Men to Jesus that we celebrate on Epiphany. This simple one line sticker speaks about the very human search for meaning and purpose and a longing to make sense of the crazy and wonderful world that we live in. 

The Gospel of Luke account of the visit of the Wise Men is one that can provide guidance to us today as we begin our journey to find answers to the questions and longings that we wrestle with in our hearts.

The Wise men were people who had the courage to ask questions about the world around them. They sought to find the answers in the stars and in the collective wisdom of their day. They did not accept easy answers but were willing to go where their questions led them. When the star that would eventually lead them to Bethlehem and Jesus appeared in the heavens, they questioned what it could mean while others around them simply dismissed it. While they prepared to leave the comforts of home and family to follow the star, others no doubt encouraged them to stay with the familiar and the known.

It would have been easier to “go along to get along.” But of course they did not. They stood against the prevailing wisdom of their day and left on the hazardous journey to follow the star. How often have we settled for easy answers to our questions simply not wanting to challenge the prevailing ideas of our time even when we are left uneasy and restless? One example of this tension is the current conversation about physician-assisted death. On one hand, the Gospel is clear about the sanctity of life and that we as a community are responsible for one another – and yet our society is saying that deciding to end one’s life is totally at the discretion of the individual. How much easier it would be to simply deny our uneasiness and remain silent rather than raise questions about alternatives or about our responsibility towards one another!

Another aspect of the story to consider is that, when they finally came to Bethlehem, the Wise men found not a king, as they might have imagined, but a young child and his parents living a simple hidden life. It is a reminder that when we pursue the questions that trouble us, the answers that we find may not be what we expected. A final aspect to note is that this story of discovery is not about a wise man, a single person struggling in isolation from others, but Wise Men, fellow seekers willing to pursue their questions together.

Let us resolve in this New Year to ask the questions that trouble us and to share them with our brothers and sisters. Our parish communities are places where we can journey together to find, in our life in Christ, the answers to the questions that trouble us and the joy, hope and peace that Jesus longs to share with us.