In April of 2018, a litter of Vizsla puppies was born. One of the puppies would bear the name Dursey and make his home with me. Dursey’s biological parents are both hunting champions. So, when the puppy was about 10 weeks old, he began to strike a pose when he saw butterflies, squirrels, or a turtle: he would stand perfectly still, with one front paw lifted, his body at attention. Dursey was pointing…innately sending a signal to his human companion. It was the beginning of our partnership in nature. It wasn’t something I could teach him to do. Pointing is his Nature.
Around month 7, Dursey began a new behavior…one that made no sense to me. If he earned the command, “Dursey, go to your kennel,” he crept to the kennel in super-slow motion. It was like watching a ballet: one paw moved forward. He’d pause, perfectly rigid, transfer his weight, and then another paw would move forward. It would take 10 minutes to move from the kitchen to the kennel. I assumed that he was doing this because he did not want to be in time out.
It did not occur to me that he was instinctively preparing for something new.
In Matthew, we meet the three wise men. Today, we might call them astrologers…people who look to the heavens for cosmic Signs.
The text tells us that they interpret three Signs: First, the rising of a celestial star. Second, the stopping of a star. And third, a dream.
When I’m away from the city, I enjoy stargazing. I’m not a student of the night sky, but in places like Big Bend National Park, even a casual observer can pick out Orion’s belt, or the big dipper.
But, our 3 wise men are not casual observers. They are studious enough to recognize the first Sign: there is a new star on the horizon…one that is just beginning to rise in the night sky.
To see a new star with the naked eye is remarkable. But, perhaps more importantly, they know the meaning of this star. When they visit Jerusalem they ask, “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews?” They don’t ask what the star represents. They already know. They have been watching the sky … waiting for this star to appear.
The text doesn’t tell us how they knew…it does give us some insight. They’re not Jewish or from Judah. But, the author tells us they are wise; perhaps they have read the prophecies of Isaiah, Micah, and others who foretell God’s coming.
Herod remembers these prophecies—the visit of the wise men stirs fear in him.
The wise men depart Herod and follow the rising star along its course…until it stops. This is the second Sign they witness. Our night sky may give the impression that stars are stationary…but they are not. When the star appears to stop, the wise men interpret this impossible event as a Sign of the child’s location … and they are filled with joy.
They have studied ancient Scriptures, charted the night sky, and traveled a long distance to be present in this particular place and moment. The child is here. They kneel and present gifts.
The third Sign is a dream. Over morning coffee, one says to the others, “I had the most unusual dream last night.” … and the others say, “Yeah, me, too”. Each of them experiences a dream in which they are warned to leave the country without returning to Herod. They interpret this as a Sign—and they leave by a different road.
As Dursey got closer to his first birthday, we began hiking on nature trails. Finally, I understood his creepy stalking behavior: He stalked squirrels, ducks, geese, rabbits…whatever we encountered. People, who stop to watch him stalking squirrels, ask, “How many dead squirrels has he brought home?”. Zero.
Dursey is a pointer…a hunting dog, not a hunter. Dursey’s Nature is to find dinner and point at it so that I can take the next action. My job is to give him the command to flush the animals from their roost…and, if I managed to shoot something, Dursey would retrieve it. He isn’t wired to take life. He’s wired to be a partner with his human.
Dursey’s purpose is deeply embedded in his body. He instinctively knows how to stalk, point, retrieve, and communicate with human life.
We are created in God’s image and invited to participate in the stewardship of Creation with God. We are endowed with an inner voice…a soul…the ability and inclination to ask, “Who am I?” … “Who is God?”. There is no other known life form on Earth with this ability.
The wise men, I think, are a Sign to us: a reflection of what it looks like to partner with God in the Stewardship of Creation. They have invested their lives and their livelihood in this manger moment. Long ago, they began learning about the prophecies of God, about the movement of stars and planets and moons. They looked into the deep of Creation for Signs of God’s movement.
They are utterly attuned to being God’s agency in our world.
We have closed the books on 2021…now, we stand at the portal of 2022. It’s a time when people recalibrate their hopes and dreams.
With Covid and covid protocols still affecting our lives, planning feels uncertain. We don’t know whether we will be able to travel, to gather, to send students to classrooms. Workplaces are changing: we have learned that being “in the office” isn’t necessarily the most productive use of our time.
The way we live, work, and recreate is being shaped by a virus.
When life seems uncertain, Anne Lamott reminds us to “remember”:
We remember that we are alive.
We remember the old tried and true things that always bless us: gather if we can, pay gentle attention to others, get outside even in the cold, send money to the poor.
We remember to give thanks that, after so much has been taken from us, so many blessings remain: the frost on [our] grass [this morning], a long hot shower, indoor plumbing. We say thanks over and over for everything that still works, all that we still love, views that still blow us away.
Gratitude [she says] is the fountain of youth.
Anne draws our attention to our experience as humans…as people created in God’s image. Whatever blows outside our front door, we still have the ability and the inclination to ask, “Who am I?” “Who is God?”
Perhaps 2022 is the year to follow the three wise men… To look for Divine Signs in our Time, to follow God’s calling, to embody the Good News and be carriers of Love in our world.
This year, St. Martin’s is doing something new to recognize Epiphany. On Epiphany Eve and the day of Epiphany, Alan or I will come to your home, say some prayers, and chalk your front door. It’s an ancient tradition. The chalking reads: 20+C+M+B+22. The numbers represent the new year: 2022.
There are two interpretations of the letters CMB. They can represent Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar…the names of the three wise men. And, the letters represent in Latin: May Christ Bless this Dwelling.
Each time you enter your home, you will be reminded of the witness of the three wise men…and the blessing of Christ. To the world, this chalking is a Sign. Like a church steeple, it is a silent, visible Sign of God….a witness of your faith…and an invitation for someone to ask you, “What does this chalking mean to you?”.
Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar watched intently for a new rising star on the horizon. The Star they saw 2000 years ago is still rising. Do you See it? Does the world know that you see it?
 From Anne Lamott’s Jan 1, 2022 Facebook post