One Gospel tells of one kind of people who saw a star in the East and followed it; and another Gospel tells the same story of quite an opposite kind of people. Matthew says that the wise men of the time were the first to appreciate the coming of Christ. Luke says that it was the plainest sort of people, the shepherds, who first greeted that coming. There is the same variety of impression still. Many people now write as if religion were for the magi only. They make of it a mystery, a philosophy, an opinion, a doctrine, which only the scholars of the time can appreciate, and which plain people can obey, but cannot understand. Many people, on the other hand, think that religion is for plain people only; good for shepherds, but outgrown by magi; a star that invites the superstitious and ignorant to worship, but which suggests to scholars only a new phenomenon for science to explore.
But the Christmas legend calls both, the wise and the humble, to discipleship. Religion has both these aspects, and offers both these invitations. Religion is not theology. There are many things which are hidden from the magi, and are revealed to simple shepherds. But religion, on the other hand, is not all for the simple. The man who wrote that there were many things hidden from the wise and prudent, was himself a scholar. It was like that dramatic day, when Wendell Phillips arraigned the graduates of this college for indifference to moral issues, while he who made the indictment was a graduate himself. The central subject of the highest wisdom to-day is, as it always has been, the relation of the mind of man to the universe of God.
Thus both these types of followers are called. Never before was the fundamental simplicity of religion so clear as it is now; and never before was scholarship in religion so needed. Some of the secrets of faith are open to any receptive heart, and some must be explored by the trained and disciplined mind. The scholar and the peasant are both called to this comprehensive service. The magi and the shepherd meet at the cradle of the Christ.