What made them wise?
Perhaps they were men of learning. Professors of their day who devoted themselves to learning.
Perhaps they were mystics. People who spent a lot of time in silence, thinking and praying.
Perhaps they were wise because they didn’t have their heads solely buried in books, or lived with their eyes closed and who lived Isaiah’s words from our first reading and lifted up their eyes and looked around.
It was just as well for when they looked around they learned of the star. Whatever the answer to what made them wise, these days of Christmas draw to a close with their story.
As ever I’m not so interested in the detail of their story, was there a star? How did it work? Did they meet Herod? How many wise men were there?
Rather I’m interested more in what we get from the story now, how it might help us live our faith today?
And that verse from Isaiah has intrigued me ‘Lift up your heads and look around.’
Maybe these words have stayed with me because of the message on the inside of one of the Private Eye Christmas Cards that we gave to a few people this year.
On the front there is a picture of Santa in his sleigh being pulled by Rudolph in the sky. Down on the ground a number of people walking along the street all looking at their mobile phones. The card reads ‘Don’t worry Rudolph, they won’t see us. No one looks up anymore.’
It may not be mobile phones but we are all guilty of ‘not looking up anymore’, of looking down, of stooping and looking more at the ground. Walking as if we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. I do it all the time.
So the message here is as much for me as for anyone else, ‘lift up your heads and look around.’ and look around with the expectation that God may just be at work in the world.
It seems to me our expectations are often so low, as if God has retired from active service. We don’t expect miracles to happen. And whilst turning water into wine is something of a stretch, miracles do happen.
The other day a carton for carrying wine bottles fell out of the boot of the car, someone passing said “Been on the communion wine father”. I replied “Wine is good. Jesus turned water into wine not wine into water.”
And those words are true, life with Jesus isn’t about making things plain and flavourless, watering down life rather life with him encourages us to savour life more, bringing out the best, perhaps that is part of what the Gospel this evening is about.
For what did the wedding guests expect of Jesus at Cana? Maybe a few cheap bottles of plonk to keep the party going. Whereas they got the finest wine and lots of it.
What do we expect? Have we lost sight of how God might just be turning the ordinary stuff of life into the finest wine to be savoured? Have we stopped lifting up our eyes and looking around to see what God might be up to?
If we are not careful we can so easily succumb to a kind of fearful pessimism about almost everything. It is certainly true sometimes in the life of the church.
Too often the soundtrack of the church is we cannot do this, or it’s not like it used to be or we haven’t got enough money as if God has given up. It’s depressing.
The church of all places should be the place where our vision is renewed. Where we hear Isaiah’s words with a deafening clarity and are sent out to look up and see where God might be at work, for then we shall see and ‘be radiant’.
What did the wise men expect at the end of their journey? They followed the star not really knowing what they would find at the end. Yet what they found or rather who they found changed their lives, they gave all that they had and left with a new vision for their lives.
Life with the God of the crib, with the God of water into wine who we meet this evening, is surely about encountering a God who constantly renews our vision.
Who invites us to see what might be. To see his life-giving love in all sorts of strange places and people. But to do that we need to ‘lift up (y)our eyes and look around’ because unless we do, our vision will always be of the floor. We would never see the star if we are always looking down.
Let me draw to a close with some words of the priest and poet Ian Adams who has been a companion for me through Advent, Christmas and now Epiphany, it’s called North Star.
Where do you abide?
Where is the point on which you pivot?
The course to which you continually return?
You know that is your stillpoint,
the place of your belovedness.
Your North Star is the Christ.
The more you look up into the glorious sky
the more natural becomes your sense of your connection
to this North Star.
Study the sky.
Keep on looking up.
Abide in him.
‘Don’t worry Rudolph, they won’t see us. No one looks up anymore.’