“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’” Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)
During the month of December I usually go on my own sort of journey to Bethlehem. I love the Biblical story so much. All the alignments to Jesus’ coming never cease to amaze me, and the month of December I linger at my own pace throughout the Old Testament prophecies and follow how they weave through time with such purpose toward one night. I get a little lost in digging into customs, words, and commentaries. All of it makes the story rich and alive, old but new again.
The dot by dot tracings through Scripture lead me to wonder at the supernatural entwined in the very ordinary. I try to imagine Mary’s blessed dilemma, a virgin heavy with child through the Holy Spirit. I contemplate a soon-to-be married shocked and heartsick Joseph. I do my best to picture the swaddled God incarnate newborn in a feeding trough. I am enamored by shepherds on a hillside and an angel chorus.
But the story of the wise men, who had likely travelled over 1,000 miles of rough terrain to worship a new king holds a special fascination.
How far would you travel to see the One for whom all of Israel waited? What lengths would you go to see a newborn king?
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” they asked.
Herod, ruler and king, didn’t know the answer to the wise men’s question. He called together all the chief priests and teachers of Jewish law for some help.
The so-called religious experts knew immediately, easy-peasy, where their Messiah would be born. After all, they studied the law and the prophets backwards and forwards, and it all lined up.
“Bethlehem in Judea.” Only about six miles away.
Six miles from the extravagant palace everything came together in a no-room-in-the-inn sort of accommodation. Old Testament predictions, God’s promises and all of Israel’s history moved to that point in time.
Even though everything aligned, the chief priest and scribes didn’t move their pompous selves an inch.
Herod sent the wise men ahead with a lie and a promise, “As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
And the religious leaders crossed their arms, yawned and went back to their comfortable lives, never stepping a foot closer to Christ.
This year, the first time in nearly 800 years two planets, Jupiter and Saturn will align to form the appearance of one huge so-called, “Christmas star.”
It’s kind of a big deal and 800 years is sort of a long time. According to experts we would have to go all the way back to March 4, 1226 to see a similar heavenly sight.
Within our piece of history God Himself will light the skies outside our Covid walls and we have an opportunity to be witnesses. For about a week we can observe this “double planet.”
2020 has tested our definition of church. It has tried the Biblical mandate of gathering in Jesus’ name. This year has grown hearts needy for a pastoral word and spiritual encouragement. We’ve missed community and corporal worship. We long for a different kind of togetherness, to hug, grieve and laugh. We want to connect again.
It’s a short distance to look into the sky the 21st of December, and marvel at its Master Designer. We’ve shaken our heads at this year full of unprecedented events. Perhaps the Creator of the stars and planets will find us with faces upturned like the shepherds and wise men long ago, at this once-in-many-lifetimes-event.
May the journey He Himself took from heaven to a manger to a cross touch our hearts. May we meet across the miles in His outside cathedral to remember the night swaddling clothes wrapped the Light of the World and the heavens burst with God’s glory. Maybe God’s celestial alignment will encourage us to go 1,000 miles or six, to rekindle hope, to go the distance in spite of the struggle. May the praise of our hearts reach His ears and our hearts align with His.
How far would you go to meet Jesus?