January 3, 2016

Nativity: January 3, 2016


"behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was." (Matthew 2:9)

The Magi “from the east arrived in Jerusalem.” Ancient protocol required an honorary visit with King Herod. Thus, after “their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star”. (Matthew 2:1&9)

Much has been made of the star. What was it? What did it look like? Why is it important? Perhaps there is wisdom in knowing the right question as much as the right answer. In other words, perhaps we should ask ourselves “Why did it happen?” as much as we ask “Did it happen?” Pope Benedict XVI writes: “the star leads the wise men as far as Judea. It is quite natural that their search for the newborn king of the Jews should take them to Israel’s royal city and to the king’s palace. That, surely, is where the future king must have been born. Then they need the direction provided by Israel’s sacred Scriptures— the words of the living God— in order to find the way once and for all to David’s true heir.” [18]

The Magi were looking, they too were searching. On this sacred pilgrimage they did not have to figure things out. They did not have to rely merely on science or circumstance. They did not have to rely on themselves. They were led. They were led by the star. They were led by the Jewish Scriptures. They were led by God so they could find God.

We’ve discussed how our secular culture is consumed with diversion. We long for the weekends. We can’t wait for the next holiday. We look forward to vacation. Too many of us are unhappy with nine to five, Monday through Friday; therefore, we live in a culture of escape. We feel as if we have to “get through life” until we can escape into the world of diversion. Much of our aversion to the ordinary is laden with the weight of having to get through life on our own. Outside the glitz and glamour of the Christmas tree and jingle bells, life can feel rather ordinary, empty, or heavy … especially if you’re leading yourself. My experience is that living as the center of your life is exhausting. Doing so will simply lead us to a relentless cycle of self-indulgence, searching for the next thing that will help me feel better about me. Unfortunately, just as the prodigal son came face to face with the emptiness of the “world’s manger”, we too often come face to face with the fatigue of trying to lead ourselves through life.

Merry Christmas. Again today, I mean this: Merry Christmas. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.”

You do not have to trudge through life alone. You do not have to wake up every day and figure it out. The pressure is not on you, it’s on God. God wants to lead you. When Mary didn’t know what to do after the Annunciation, God led her to Elizabeth. When Joseph didn’t know what to do with Mary’s pregnancy, or his reaction to divorce her, God led him to freedom. When neither of them knew how to get to Bethlehem, nor where they would stay once they got there, God led them. The shepherds were led. The Magi were led.

The Advent and Christmas stories are filled with many themes; however, most encouraging is this: God will lead you if you let Him. In your marriage, God will lead you. In your family, God will lead you. In your parish, God will lead you. In your dreams for the future, God will lead you. In your unsettled unrest about your past, God will lead you. In the day you have today, God will lead you. In the places where you may not know what to do, God will lead you. In the circumstances that may seem impossible, God will lead you. In sickness and in the health, in good times and in bad, God will lead you.

Merry Christmas … God wants to lead you.  When the Magi let God lead them they found the very thing, the very person, they were searching for. God wants to lead us to freedom. We can be free from things or we can be free to do things. Freedom from often precedes freedom to. However, before God leads us to freedom, God wants to lead us to a person: Jesus Christ. Trust the process. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the “how” of being led. Today, simply rest with the invitation. Merry Christmas … God wants to lead you. Are you ready to be led?

For your prayer

The Magi were more than likely familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, the Old Testament. The Magi would have been familiar with the Old Testament prophets and prophecies. Imagine how the Magi would have reflected upon the words of the prophet Jeremiah. Begin by slowly reading Jeremiah 29:11-14a. Read it a few times. Imagine the Magi being led by God, by the star. Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Matthew 2:9. Be in the scene. Look at them as they look at the star. Look at the star as it stops over the cave outside Bethlehem. What stirs in their hearts as the star stops? What stirs in your heart as you are being led?

Today's prayer

“Father, I desire freedom. Help me to let you lead me.”

[18] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pg. 101

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