Herod wants to be a star
The Wise Men followed the Christmas Star and, on this day, find Jesus all brightly shining under the Star’s beam. King Herod also saw that star, but what did it mean to him? Absolutely nothing. Poor Herod (first, his name is positively frightful) considered himself a rising star in the Roman Empire. He became governor of Galilee at age 25, and to consolidate his position banished his first wife and their son, sent hundreds of priests to their deaths, and finally murdered his second wife and their children. And of course he killed all the baby boys in Bethlehem in a fanatical attempt to maintain control. He spent his life seeking to be a star rather than to follow a star, leaving a trail of blood, destruction, and anguish behind him.
Wise Men look up not down
No one can see the arresting beauty of the Star, or the Babe, or his Mother, unless he looks up, beyond himself. The Wise Men looked up, studying the heavens. They prayed to God rather to themselves. “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart, a simple look turned toward heaven; it is a cry of recognition and of love…” wrote St. Therese. They recognized God, while Herod recognized nothing familiar in this world, a stranger to himself and a monster to others.
There’s only two ways to go in this life: up or down. I can be a Herod, or I can be a Wise Man. I can choose to complain, to rant, and to despair, or I can choose to thank God, to edify, and to rejoice in the life God has given me. This joy is not just the power of positive thinking; it is “a cry of recognition and of love.” We recognize that God loves us, and that nothing is beyond Him.
No one wants to be a Herod, not even Herod. No one wants to kill babies, or their own wife and sons. But unless we study the heavens like the Magi, we will sink with him into that chaos. Prayer enlarges the heart and makes it capable of receiving the infinite God. Take the trouble to pray, to look up instead of down, to seek and expect joy. Take the trouble to stop in the church, or stop at an open window, and to look up instead of down.