Angels, Stars, and Dreams

The tableau of three wise journeyers with crowns on their heads kneeling at the manger, offering gifts to the newborn Jesus, is one of the iconic images of the Christmas story.

Yet after visiting Jesus, what did these journeyers from the East do next? where did they go? what did they do?

As Professor Emerson Powery of Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania explains, "Summoned westward by a star, the magi return home, guided by a dream of warning. Dreams play a minimal role in the Gospel tradition, but they are central to the opening chapters of Matthew's Gospel. They do even more than move along the plot; they also encourage people to avoid death threats on Jesus's life. In an earlier scene, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream, to encourage him [to become Mary's husband]. Another dream forewarns the Wise [Journeyers] to avoid Herod. In similar fashion, an angel tells Joseph, in a dream, to take the family to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath." (p.156)

And what shall we do now, now that we have knelt at the creche and sung welcome to baby Jesus?

As Dr. Powery counsels, "Sometimes we have to be open to new resources for revelation, like dreams and stars or advice from children and words of hope from unexpected places." (p. 157)


Professor Powery's reflections on Matthew 2:1-12 can be found in Connections: A Lectionary Commentary, Year C, Volume 1.