If one was to ask the average teenager today what they understood by having 'stars in their eyes' they might well respond by a reference to Amy Winehouse or some other current celebrity from the world of entertainment. 'Stars shine in your eyes' was the title of a song that became popular sometime in the 60's, I think. I also remember that the second line was 'stars never tell lies'!
The study of astrology goes back to the ancient civilizations of the world - Egyptians, Incas, Greeks. By observing the stars, man hoped to discern something of the meaning of the world, and also of the supernatural. Astrological observances play an important part in man's search for the origins of life and of his search for the prime immovable mover, whom we call God. We read in Genesis (1:16) of God creating the moon and the stars in His divine process of creation, extending and imparting life in all its forms into a Universe of mystery and majesty.
So when the three wise men in Matthew's account of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, set out to discover and investigate the star, they also took into account ancient predictions from the books of the Old Testament. They had been playing a waiting game, eagerly anticipating the fulfilment of the prophecies, foretold for countless generations.
The waiting is over.
God, who created the stars and , who 'drills them like an army, calling each one by name' (Isaiah 40:26) sends the Star of Bethlehem as guide to the Magi as they travel from the East to seek 'the one who is to come'.
In our lives we become accustomed to waiting, and often our patience is tested to the limit. Sometimes impatience gets the better of us and we succumb to anger. Our patient waiting is rewarded by discovering Christ in our own individual lives, just as the three travelers were rewarded.
Just as the astrologer is exhilarated by the discovery of a new celestial body in the cosmos, so may we share in the excitement of the Magi at this epiphaneia or appearance of God-made-man, the revelation of the only God as man to mankind, revealed to us in order to demonstrate the infinite love God shared with His creation. God reveals Himself in the form of a simple child, not only to kings, but to simple shepherds as a sign of His universality. The whole of creation groans in this act of divine birth, as Mary, the Virgin Mother, brings Christ into the world, acting as the instrument of God's generosity.
The star that brightens the Bethlehem night sky is symbolic of the new light that comes into the world, dispelling the darkness of evil and ignorance, replacing them with truth and knowledge, as Christ reveals himself to the whole of mankind.
In this revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, the three real witnesses are not the three kings of the Orient, but water (of baptism), blood (of the cross) and the Spirit of truth (cf. 1 John 5:7). As St. John writes, 'Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God' (ibid. 5:5). This is 'God's testimony, given as evidence for his Son'.
How can we be worthy of such a testimony? The simple answer is that, of course, we cannot be worthy. It is the perfect gift of God's grace to mankind that enables us to recognize Christ as the Son of God and therefore ennobles us by his human nature. As a gesture of recognition, the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the most precious materials they possessed.
In the materialistic world in which we live we must offer Christ more than material gifts. We must give testimony to our belief in the Son of God, so that (as St John writes),
'God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. You who believe in the Son of God may be sure that you have eternal life.'
Just as the Magi of the East were witnesses to the coming of the Messiah, and Christ was waiting for them to come to him, to his humble surroundings, he is likewise waiting for us to be true witnesses to the glory and wonder of the Nativity in our own world.