When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, scripture tells us that wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
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. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage.”
So, here we are 2000 years later. Back then, it was that star that led the wise men to the Christ child. What is it today that leads wise people to him? Is it still that star?
Said the night wind to the little lamb, “Do you see what I see? Way up in the sky, little lamb, do you see what I see? A star, a star, dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite.”
Today, that star leads us not to a manger in Bethlehem but to those among us who are in need, the neighbors that baby become a man…called on us to love.
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, “Do you know what I know? In your palace warm, mighty king, do you know what I know? A child, a child shivers in the cold…a child is hungry, an addict is asking for help, someone faces deportation and the loss of family and home as a result of an unjust immigration system, a teenager contemplates what to do next, to whom to turn having been rejected by her family because of who God created her to be, a family sleeps this night in a car or under a bridge, a single parent is working right now at some big box store so that others may buy the last minute Christmas gifts that her wages won’t permit her to buy for her own children, a soldier celebrates the night on a war front in some faraway nation, a lonely elderly couple struggles with the consequences of age and the shepherd boy asks each of us on the night we celebrate the birth of the Son of God, “Do you know what I know?”
What the little shepherd boy knows is that the star that once led wise men to the baby Jesus…now sets over those Jesus has called us to serve. When we see that the star has stopped there, we are asked to be overwhelmed with joy for our opportunity to serve.
Said the king to the people everywhere, “Listen to what I say, pray for peace, people everywhere. Listen to what I have to say, the child sleeping in the night…he will bring us goodness and light, he will bring us goodness and light.”
It is the eve of Christmas, a cold winter evening in a time when the world is in great need for hope and for these few minutes here and in our homes tonight and tomorrow, we celebrate the hope of the world.
We don’t teach our children this story just so that they will know what happened 2000 years ago. We teach them this story so that they will come to know a God that lives among them and gives them a vision of peace for their lives and the life of the world.
My hope and prayer is that as we enter--yet again--into this oh-so-familiar story...the one we teach our children each year at this time…
...a story of a young mother finding out that through her womb, God would enter into the world as a baby boy...a story of an earthly father who, though confused, had the decency to believe his fiancée and stay by her side...a story of a baby born and laid in manger among sheep and cattle, whose power is seen from the beginning in vulnerability and selfless love.
The story of a baby that so threatened those in power that they sought to make sure he didn’t grow into the man they worried he would…and did.
My hope and prayer is that through that story we might discover--once again--a truth that is so real that it does not depend on our ability to prove or comprehend it.
Indeed, a truth about God's incredible commitment to us and this world that might lead us to watch for the ways that God is still active in human history...in our very lives...in this very world...to bring about salvation.
In the name of the God of all who taught us how to live through the teachings of Jesus and continues to inspire us through the Spirit…may we celebrate the birth of Jesus with love in our hearts, our actions and our voices. Amen.