The end of the journey
And entering the house, they found the child with Mary His mother, and falling down they adored Him. (Mt 2:11)
On Christmas day the shepherds made a short journey to Bethlehem to see the Messiah. And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath showed to us. And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. (Lc 2:15-16).
A few days later (or perhaps weeks), three wise men came from the east in search of the Messiah. Their journey was from a long way away (perhaps as far as 800 miles) from Persia and India. When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East. (Mt 2:1)
The guiding lights
The shepherds had two guides for their journey. They were Jewish, members of the chosen race, and so they had the light of the inspired word of God written in the sacred scriptures. There are over 300 prophecies relating to the birth of the Messiah indicating when, where and to whom He would be born. These prophecies, however, were not clear enough (especially for the shepherds) and so they also had the angels to guide them to the stable in Bethlehem: And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them and the brightness of God shone round about them: and they feared with a great fear. 10 And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people: 11 For, this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. (Lc2:9-11)
The three kings also had two guides for their journey. The first was the same sacred scriptures. When the Jews were deported to Babylon, they would have made known their scriptures to the wise men of the kingdom. The prophet Daniel, for example, was a man of great influence under the king Nabuchodonosor II (reign c. 605-562 B.C.). Also, when they reached Jerusalem, it was the prophecy invoked by the chief priests and scribes that brought them to Bethlehem: And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. (Mt2:6)
The second guide was a star. Being zoroastrian priests, they believed in astrology and so God made a star to miraculously rise up as per the prophecy of the book of Numbers (24:17): A star shall rise out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel.
Both the shepherds and the Kings needed a guide because the Messiah was not to be found in the most likely place: a baby is not usually to be found in the manger of a winter stable; a king is not usually to be found in a small town like Bethlehem.
The spiritual journey
Now the journeys of the shepherds and the Kings were not just an affair of a few individuals, they represent the manifestation of the Messiah to the Jews, who were the chosen race represented by the shepherds, and to the Gentiles represented by the three Kings. The journey they undertook was not just a physical journey either, it was also spiritual journey. The aspiration of every man fallen from grace is for a Redeemer, and in finding Jesus, they found their Saviour who would raise them up to share in His Divinity. They had found their home for all eternity.
We too are on this journey to unite ourselves with our Saviour and we too need guides to help us find Him because He is not to be found in a likely place. Our Lord is not to be found among the noisy superstars of the world, He is not be found among world leaders or in social media. He is to be found on the Cross - in the daily difficulties we face and even more so in the difficulties we chose for His sake. He is to be found in the Blessed Sacrament and in souls in a state of grace. His image is in every soul. Our guide to find Him is Holy Mother the Church who teaches us those truths which are found in sacred scripture and tradition.
Let us ask the head of Holy Mother the Church, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to guide us surely (with the help of His Blessed Mother) to our journey's end. And may He show Himself to us on this feast of the Epiphany - and every day - in the suffering of this world, in the Blessed Sacrament, in our own souls and in those of our neighbour. And when we are before Him, may we - like the shepherds and the kings - offer gifts more precious than gold, frankincense and myrrh; may we offer Him our supernatural love. And may we too fall down and adore Him.