Following Stars and Discovering Stables
We may think that we have very little in common with the wise men. Those magi who follow a star in the sky so long ago to find the long expected Messiah in a very humble place. But I think following stars and finding stables is a common experience for us humans. There are few among us who have not, at some time in our life, fixed our gaze on some high and lofty star, only to find that it leads to a stable. Hundreds of examples could be given, and most of us have our own stories to share. Think of those who have searched for faith and found it. Then the sin and brokenness of the world touches them, and they begin to wonder as to the reality of their faith, and whether it actually works.
For many of us, we have lost our hopeful expectation. We no longer watch for the presence of God among us, perhaps because we are too battered down by the world. We have followed stars only to find that they lead to stables. Yet, I believe we must wrestle with how we will move beyond discouragement and disillusionment. How do we deal with the fact that we have followed stars and discovered stables? What I have come to appreciate about the story of the wise men is that it provides an example of how to deal with such disappointment.
First, the wise men go searching. They search for a LONG time. Then they discovered God in the most expected place. I have often wondered if they were disappointed when they arrived at the smelly stable. Many would have been tempted to simply turn head and head home. Yet, it is clear that they realized that the wonder, majesty, and purpose of God could be as potent in the stable as in the palace. Over and over again in the biblical stories, we see that stables even come to God’s people. Yet, those of the deepest faith never gave up on God. They saw God in the midst of messy situations. We too may look at our own disappointments and see how God turns those disappointments into some thing good and beautiful in the end. As the Magi followed that star to the stable, they were willing to see the good and beautiful in the messy as they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”
Secondly, the wise men offer Christ their gifts. We all know about the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Yet, the Magi’ true gift is to represent the Gentile world coming and paying homage to Christ. The central problem with our lives is not that we have experienced more than our share of disappointments, but often we have not done the best with what we have. We have not offered our disappointments back to God. An important question we must be willing to ask of ourselves is: What do we bring in service to the living God? When we come to places of disappointments, we must continue to seek God and remember and trust in the promises of God, even in the face of doubt, disillusionment, and sorrow.
The final lesson we can through learn he magi is how the journey will often lead us in new directions, on a new path. After they followed the star, life was never the same for them. After they had paid homage and offered their treasure, these “wise men” took a different direction home because they were warned that Herod’s intentions was not noble. Herod wanted to know where the Christ child was located. Thus, they avoided returning to Jerusalem. The fact is, when we encounter the living God, God charts out for our lives n new directions. When we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, we find He brings a new purpose in life. He will also bring a new desire in our life, a desire to love, to serve, and to follow Him alone. The Magi came and saw a baby in a stable. Yet they saw in the face of that baby the living God. In the incarnation, God became flesh.
As we seek to find Christ in our lives, we need to be prepared for the reality that Christ might give us new directions and chart a new path. Disappointments turn out to be opportunities for growth and blessing. The glory of the Gospel is that it is good news, it speaks both of the grace of God and the transforming power of God’s mercy. God takes the common places of our lives and transforms them into something significant and sacred. This month, as we face a new year, may we seek the presence of God among us and may we offer God our best. As we follow stars, and sometimes find stables, we find, too, that those stables come to us from the hand of God, and often they contain the greatest blessings of all.