Far more than Matthew’s simple narrative of the adoration of the Wise Men in Bethlehem, it is the radiant vision of the prophet Isaiah that has inspired the mind and heart of Christianity. Our crib scenes borrow only their central concept from Matthew; in their details, they follow the more creative vision of the prophet: the dromedaries, the camels, the wealth of the peoples – all these are borrowed from Isaiah. Thus the beauty and greatness of earth bend the knee to poverty, to the Child in a manger.
But is this not, in reality, just a dream that must yield to prosaic and humble reality?
Properly speaking, Isaiah is not portraying a particular moment. His vision looks centuries ahead into the distance. After so much darkness and so much disappointment, a light shines forth from Zion that will illumine the whole world, a pilgrimage wends its way thither from all over the world, and the heart of Israel trembles for joy at this unexpected brilliance.
Is this a dream, then? Or is it not perhaps the truth? Is it not true that a light from the heart of Israel shines through the centuries?
The Magi of the Gospel are but the first in a vast pilgrimage in which the beauty of this earth is laid at the feet of Christ: the gold of the ancient Christian mosaics, the praise of their stone, the Christmas songs of the trees of the forest are all inspired by him and human voices like musical instruments have found their most beautiful melodies when they cast themselves at his feet. The suffering of the world too – its misery – comes to him in order, for a moment, to find security and understanding in the presence of the God who is poor.
From: Gottes Angeischt suchen, p.11