In this case, the "literal" reading tells us of the Magi...which means "magician"...as that is how some people viewed the Wise Men, who were also considered to be Astrologers. The Magi saw the star in their observations of the heavens and discerned it was a sign of the arrival of a new king; a Messiah for the Hebrew people.They followed the star to acknowledge and worship the new king.
The "moral" understanding is the basic teaching of the story for all people in general. A simple example of this would be that Jesus' birth and the journey of the wise men tells us that if they who were so wise determined Jesus to be the newborn King, and worthy of worship and honor then we should also.
The "spiritual" or deepest meaning of this biblical story is both personal and universal. Each person, place, thing and event is symbolic of something in our very own lives. In the interest of time and brevity, I have condensed the information (If you would like to explore more deeply a great resource is "Your Hope of Glory" by Elizabeth Sand Turner or "The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary" by Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity).
The Magi represent wisdom; the inner-wisdom of Spirit within the superconscious mind of each of us. It is the part of us that "knows" there is greater good than we perceive in the world around us.
They are called "kings," indicating great power. With wisdom comes power.
As astrologers, or magi, they were seekers, attuned to the realm beyond our everyday understanding.
They came from "the east," which spiritually indicates God or God Mind.
They followed the star, which represents Spiritual Light or knowing. When we seek God through wisdom, with an open heart and mind we are drawn to the light and follow it by striving to live according to what we know to be good and true.
They arrived at the manger where Jesus was placed. A manger is a feed box for farm animals. Jesus said "I am the bread of life." Through the life and teaching of Jesus we are fed spiritual food. The lower, "animal" nature is nourished to Christhood, defined by the Apostle Paul as "Christ in You, Your Hope of Glory."
Contrary to the belief of the people, the Magi were not in fact magicians. They were spiritually aware and open to a reality greater than the one in which we live our mundane lives. There is none of the "smoke and mirrors" of earthly magicians, rather a deeper understanding of spiritual prinicple...Universal Spiritual Principle available to all people of all faiths sincerely seeking God.
Another definition of "epiphany" is: "a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience." We could call this an "aha!" moment. This is the moment when we "get it." When we comprehend the activity of God through spiritual principle in our lives.
Simply put, the wise men saw the star and said, "aha!" and followed it to the stable where the Truth of their guidance was revealed and confirmed.
Within each of us, in the realm of the superconscious mind...the aspect of our individual minds which is One with Divine Mind...you will find the "wise men," the part of us that intuitively knows the Truth of our Oneness and seeks to connect with it; to find and worship (acknowledge worth) it. The "wise men" are our knowing thoughts...we know that we know that we know.
Unfortunately we become so entangled in our day to day experiences and circumstances that we fail to connect with that part of our being. We can establish contact with our inner wisdom by following the lead of the Biblical Wise Men. Seek. Look Up. Follow the Star of intuition. Set your intention on Christ.
For many years I sent the same Christmas Card...a sentiment that I embrace today: "Wise men still seek Him." And so I do!
Have a wonderful day. RevAli