Many of us are familiar with the story of The Magi, also known as the Three Wise Men. They are astrologers, men who study the stars. They believe the heavens speak to us and offer great truths, if only we will listen. That is the job of the Wise Men. To be still and listen, to pay attention to what the stars have to say. And one day, they hear the message loud and clear.
Oh, if only I would slow down long enough to be still and listen to what God has to say! Yet I forget to pray, I forget to ask, I forget to wait and listen. Wait and listen. Wait and listen. Wait and listen. Instead, I jump in head-first then proceed to swim upstream in a powerful current of drowning self-sufficiency. How much do I miss because I don’t pay attention and listen?
But then there’s the incredible fact that the Wise Men are pagan. This means that they worship a multitude of gods rather than the One True God, according to the Jews. This blows my mind. That God would choose to speak to 3 pagans on the other side of the world about this King before anyone else (not counting the prophets of the Old Testament). How cool is that? He wasn’t looking for the most obedient, the most religious, the most law-abiding Jews to receive the message first. Nope. He chose 3 men from the East who were probably bowing down and offering sacrifices to the sun, the stars and the moon. But what did He do? He spoke to them. Through the very stars they were worshiping.
Lord, help me to listen for Your Voice even in the most unexpected places and through the most unexpected people. Open my ears and let me ear. Open my eyes and let me see. Your goodness, your grace, your beauty, speaks through every facet of creation.
What truly fascinates me is the fact that these guys are willing to travel hundreds of miles by camel from the East to get to Bethlehem. Some scholars think it took them as long as 3 years! What kind of perseverance they must have had! And courage! And determination! To not give up when they were buffeted by sandstorms. To not be afraid when they passed through foreign lands and cultures where they were viewed suspiciously. To not lose heart when they realized how long and how far they had traveled. To not give up when they doubted, when they began to wonder if this was just a crazy delusion, if this was really worth it, leaving their families and loved ones behind. But they kept going. Even when they couldn’t see the end in sight. And eventually, this perseverance, this faith in what they could not see, lead them to the King of the Universe.
Oh Lord, help me to persevere in the hard. I am so quick to lose heart, to give up, to give in, to stop trying, to stop trusting, to stop believing. Help me remember, like the Wise Men, to keep my eyes on the Star. To keep moving, to put one obedient foot after another on the journey of a lifetime, knowing that eventually, I will get there. And it will be worth every bit of the hard, every effort required of the journey.
Finally, they reach Bethlehem. And where do they go? Right to the King’s palace, of course, where the Child must be. But no, He is not there. And King Herod is not so happy to hear that a Great King has been born. So off they go, still following the Star, which seems to be over the outskirts of Bethlehem. They pass the upper class neighborhoods with well-built homes and drinking wells, then they pass the middle class neighborhoods, which aren’t quite as nice, then they walk through the lower class, poor area of town, where things are old and run down and in disarray. And then they go beyond that, to the back country, the trailer park, the ghetto, to a run-down old stable. And there, the Star stops.
What must they have been thinking? Could this be a mistake? Were we wrong all along? Have we been following the wrong star? What does this mean? Oh, the doubt and skepticism that must have been flooding their minds. But then, they go to the entrance and knock. They knock and the door is opened. And in they walk and see Him, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and they bow down in worship.
Lord, how often I don’t believe You are leading me, when I am walking through life, dealing with things I didn’t expect to deal with, facing hardships I didn’t expect to face, struggling with things I never thought I’d struggle with. So often times, I am thinking: Are you really in control? Have I veered off the wrong path? Am I lost? But no, You are always leading. Sometimes, it’s just through unfamiliar land that looks ugly and run down, but is just what I need.
Praying we experience the stillness, the wonder, the perseverance, and the faith of the Magi this Christmas season. May we be still and listen, for God delights in speaking to His children.