Well, kings they were not. The gospel tells us that they were “wise” men, and that is enough. The obvious question is why are they referred to as Wise? What’s so special about them? When I reflect on this story, I think that their wisdom comes from the fact that they are searching. It’s not so much the fact that they knew how to read the stars, or they spoke different languages. They were people on the move. They could have been rich, and probably they were. But they knew that they lacked something. And they set out on a journey. They followed the star - a beautiful symbol of light in the skies. When they lost sight of this guide, they were not afraid to ask. They needed help, and they knew, in their wisdom, that they do not have all the answers. They were open to learn, to take new paths, to walk in places they had never knew. As they journey, they learn and they continue to grow in their wisdom. In the meantime, they get constantly closer to what they are looking for.
Sometimes, they asked the wrong person. Herod, who due to his badness and corruption was frightened that this might be his end, told them to go and find him, and return through the same way, so that he, too, “may go and pay homage to him.” No wonder that Jesus has very harsh words in John’s gospel for those who are guided by evil in their lives:
"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
The wise men do not know it all. The wise men are always searching for the truth. God knows and acknowledges this, and he intervenes not to let them return to Herod.
A beautiful reaction is the one these men had when they finally arrived at their destination: They were overwhelmed with joy. God often gives us joy or happiness in unexpected ways. They were searching for a king, and yet they only found a baby with his mother. Nothing special. Yet, they believed, and they were touched in their innermost being.
Perhaps a question I can ask myself today is what am I looking for in life? Where do I seek to attain happiness? And what do I use to guide me to get there?
The wise men allowed themselves to by guided by God’s own light. They allowed themselves to be surprised by God, and they did not regret it.