When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. – Matthew 2: 9 & 10, NRSV
Growing up in the oil fields of West Texas had one amazing benefit. The gas in the air enhanced the natural sunrise and sunset to every color under the rainbow. Sunset was fluorescent orange and red, mixed with purple for good measure. I have never seen a more spectacular view than the one from my childhood bedroom window.
The nighttime provided an equally mesmerizing display. It was so dark at night that you could see nothing but a dome of stars above your head. On some nights, when the clouds came to play, there were moments when you would swear you could step right up into the blue and gray heavens with the stars twinkling a welcome.
The Wise Men of the Christmas story knew this darkness. In fact, they earned their prominence from studying the stars, and testifying about unusual planet alignment and comets. There was something different about this Christmas star, though.
These men left their homes in the east and traveled to Jerusalem to connect with this particular star. These were years of sitting up at night wondering if the star marked a significant birth in the lives of Israel. These were years of enduring the darkness to maintain a steady pace onward. These were years of obsessing over one heavenly object.
The closest image that I have of this obsession is my son. My mother gave him a large shiny Christmas star to hang in his room over the holiday season. He is enamored by its sparkling beauty. When he opens his eyes, he checks on it. I hear him babbling to it over the monitor. In honor of this new found affection, before every nap I have started adding a line of thankfulness to our prayer. I say, “Thank you God for the Christmas stars you give us that lead us to the Savior.”
I feel that two conditions make the Christmas star unique: its attraction, and the Savior waiting at the end. The first condition appeals to an astrologer. These Wise Men were certainly wise, but more than anything they were watching the skies for unusual events. By definition their passion existed in the least visible, and most dangerous time of a 24-hour period. Seeing this beacon over Jerusalem, they simply walked toward it. They walked and they walked. It took them right up the steps of King Herod’s palace. The objective was clear, to follow this star.
These appropriately named Wise Men teach us that before we follow these sparkling wonders into the all encompassing darkness, we have to look for them. These God sent objects are meant to grab our attention so completely that darkness is like daylight, and visibility becomes a distraction to the reality of our passions. God bends the rules of vision to accommodate the darkness, because of the end. Here lies the Savior.
The Wise Men worked, traveled, learned and endured to reach their end. They found that the baby Jesus lay in a manger not only in reality, but as a symbol of our hope. God does intervene. God did rescue us and will rescue us, again. God will not stop until His work is finished. If God points us there, Christ will always be at the end.
That is the story of every star that God puts in our path.
Ask for them.
Know their end.