Follow that star!
God’s journey in human form began long before the star started shining. No one knew what He would look like, or what kind of person He would be. God was hidden – He was with the people, but they did not really know it yet. How often is that the case? How often do we miss the presence of God because we do not know where to look, or because life feels hard and demanding and so God feels distant?
Joseph felt like that too. Frightened? Certainly. Confused? Definitely. Unsure of what the whole thing meant? Totally. But neither fear nor confusion takes away the fact that right then, before Joseph even knew it, God was there beside him.
Along with Joseph and Mary many people were travelling to Bethlehem. Houses were overcrowded, and so there was no space for them. There was no ‘Baby on Board’ badge to let them jump the queues or get a seat!
Yet… silently God is about to come into His world, and patiently He waits for His turn, but the world had no space for this traveller, no space for the parents He had chosen. They could not pull rank or afford to buy favours.
Isn’t it interesting that God’s journey into the world starts with rejection and setting aside. Not quite the welcome one might have expected. God was present, but the world largely passed by unaware of what was going on.
However, some people were made aware of what God was doing! God’s invitation to the shepherds was both glossy (angels, no less!) and personal. But what were they invited to? To see a new-born child, with a promise the child was special. Did they think this was all a joke? Why would a bunch of smelly shepherds from nowhere be invited for a special birth? Would shepherds be the best kind of visitors? surely… kings should be there first!
And I wonder whether the shepherds may have felt awkward, out of place, intimidated. Yet they were invited but it was up to them to decide how to respond, for they were not forced, they were just invited. Would they trust the invitation and go look for themselves?
God invites all of us to come and look – how do you feel about that? Will you go and find out more, or will you run away?
Running away is easy, especially from darkness. Yet, darkness in itself is not evil; it is merely frightening because it’s difficult to find our bearings within it. So, our response is often to run away from it.
The story of Christmas tells us that God came to dwell in darkness. God came to dwell in the place that was frightening – in a place of rejection, of poverty, of insecurity.
Yet, in dwelling in the darkness He brought light! It might sometimes feel like a small, flickering light, but it is light nonetheless. God does not just dwell in the beautiful, shiny places, where we are happy and grateful. God also dwells in the dark places, ready to walk with us, guide us and comfort us with the light of his loving presence.
Go ahead, ask Him, He will bring light to any darkness you’re going through.
The wise men saw the star that announced a king was going to be born. But somehow they ended up the wrong place, a palace instead of a stable. Maybe once they got nearer the goal, they followed their heads, and their inner sense of where a king should be born, rather than follow what they had discovered through the star.
So they had to adjust, both their course and their expectations. Course correction is part of any journey, for we too get things wrong, and need correcting. But the Good News is this; this will not stop God from leading us, as long as we are ready to recognise our mistakes, and be ready to adjust.
So the wise men were wise indeed. Wise enough to know they had gone wrong, and to learn from their mistake. Wise enough to be open to an unexpected truth… that God may not be quite as they had imagined.
Jesus’ birth in an unforgiving environment, shows us that the worth of a human being does not rest on where we are born, or to the parents we are born to. It rests on the fact that we are loved by God. In His love for us God knows us through and through. But being known is a two-edged thing. It can make us feel loved and accepted. It can also make us feel exposed and vulnerable.
At Christmas God is saying to us all ‘come and see’, take a moment to look into the manager and see the Light of the World… Jesus. In Jesus we also find God’s presence, and their presence together is always marked by joy, kindness and generosity.
So Christmas is all about gathering around Jesus, and celebrating with others the fact that God has chosen to come to us, and to journey with us, in the difficult times, the good times, and so in every aspect of our lives. May this be your experience as you journey through this Christmastide.