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The Wise Men Following the Star
latter portion of a sermon by 
John Keble
Are we not, so far, all of us like them [the Wise Men], in that, when children, we too have a sort of Star in the east, to guide us towards the cradle of our Lord?  We are carried to Church, we are taught to pray, we learn more or less of Scripture words and histories: God gives us notice, in various ways, of that wonderful Child, Who was born at Bethlehem to be King of the Jews: various things happen, from time to time, which five us a sort of blind indistinct feeling, that there is within our reach, we know not how near us, a great and heavenly Being, could we but feel after Him and find Him.

Now these notices and feelings, if they are indeed sent by the Most High, as the star was sent to the Wise men, will guide us, more or less directly, to Jerusalem, that is, to the Holy Church of God, the city set on a hill which cannot be hid.  We indeed are in that Church already, by the Almighty’s especial favour, ever since the moment of our Baptism.  And still as we search after the truth, our thoughts are brought back to the same Church; and Providence teaches us, as the star guided the Wise men, to go to Jerusalem, the Church and city of God, and ask where the Truth, that is, Christ, is to be found.

And the Church, like a gracious mother, will be ready at our need.  She will guide us, as herself is guided, by Holy Scripture.  She will send us to Bethlehem, because it is so written in the Prophets: Bethlehem, which is, being interpreted, the House of Bread, and which therefore is an apt figure of the place where He gives Himself to us, Who is “the true Bread which cometh down from heaven, the Bread of God which giveth life unto the world.”  The Church, in short, being guided by the Scriptures, will send us to the Holy Communion, there to worship and receive Jesus Christ.  What have we to do in this world, but to prepare ourselves, and follow that heavenly guidance?  And we are so far rightly preparing ourselves, as we really from our heart are endeavouring to copy the Wise men in their search for the new-born Saviour.

The Wise men were ready to follow wherever God’s providence might lead them, however slight and even doubtful the notices of His will might be.  They follow the star, not knowing whither it would take them, much as Abraham had done, from nearly the same country, two thousand years before.  So ought it to be enough for us to know the next step in our journey, the next thing God would have us do, with something like tolerable certainty.  One step before them, is as much as sinners in a troublous world should expect to see.

The Wise men did not mind the trouble of their journey to find our Lord.  Day after day they went on, and still the star, as it may appear, or at least some providential sign, showed them they had still further to go; and they did not grow weary, nor turn back, nor say, “Why could not we as well have honoured the young Child at a distance, in the sight of God Who knows our hearts?”

This surely may reprove our indolence and want of faith, who are so seldom willing to leave our homes, and go ever so little way, there, where we are sure the young Child is to be found, but rather put up with idle excuses, the more profane because they make a show of respect, of God being in one place as much as another, and of our being able to serve Him at home as acceptably as in Church.

Neither, again, did those Wise men shrink from their long journey, nor fear to ask about our Lord, or to go where they heard He was, or to worship when they had found Him, lest they should be wondered at, and thought strange, and pointed to, as wilfully and fancifully making themselves unlike other people.  No such thought, it would appear, came at all into their minds: they just followed the star and the Prophet, whether those who looked on derided them or no.  Will it not be a good token of our faith, when we too make up our minds to obey the Church, and serve God as we best may, not regarding what kind of talk people may at first make about it?

I say, at first, because in no long time, if we let them alone, they will let us alone.  It is but exercising a little courage and perseverance at first, and taking care not to disgrace our profession by wilful sin; and we shall quickly find leave from the world to serve God regularly in spite of her scorn.

Further, the Wise men were not ashamed to acknowledge and honour Christ as especially present in a poor cottage, and as a young Child: neither let us doubt, but take Him at His word when He says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me;” and again, “Whosoever shall receive one such little child in My Name, receiveth Me.”  As ever we desire to find Christ truly in His Sacraments and His Scriptures, be it our care never to forget Him in His poor, if we can relieve them; or in His little ones, if we can help them to continue His, at least by not doing or saying any thing to corrupt them in the way of bad example.

The Wise men, being bidden by an Angel not to return to Herod, obeyed, and went back as they might some other way.  They did not stumble at the command, though it might seem strange to find so sacred a Person in danger, and His life made to depend on any thing they could do.  They did not say, “How is this? that He should be the Son of God, and yet we must go out of our way to save His life from the tyrant?”  But being bidden, at once, without objection, they obey the bidding.  It will be a good sign when Christian persons, having found truth, show themselves worthy of it, by the like obedience to plain commands, without asking questions.

Lastly, the Wise men grudged not the Holy Child the best and most expensive gifts they could offer, though it were hard to see how some of them, at least, could be of any use to Him.  But they were full of adoring love, and a heart where love dwells cannot stop to consider the use of things.  Does not this tell us something about our way of serving and honouring Christ in His Churches, and in all that appertains to them, especially in whatever belongs to the services of the Holy Communion?  Ought it not to be all as handsome as we can make it?  Ought we nicely to count the cost, or measure the good done, when we are bringing our offerings for such purposes?  Are we used to do so, when we are bringing tokens of affection to those whom we most love and honour on earth?  Did David so behave?  or S. Mary Magdalene?  or these Wise men?  or any of those whom the Bible mentions as honouring God and being honoured by Him?

For indeed these Wise men were greatly honoured by Him; especially if, as was of old believed, they became afterwards disciples of His Apostles, ministers and stewards of His mysteries.  Think what a glorious ending, from a beginning in appearance so slight and seemingly accidental, as their observing a particular star, religiously taking it to be from God, and with all perseverance inquiring its import, and following after its course.

Let any Christian child, or poor person as ignorant as a child, only go on doing his best in silence, God for His part will most surely keep and perform His part of the promise.  Let the star, the lesser light you have, guide you to Christ here, that you may after this life have the fruition of His glorious Godhead.