December 21, my William’s birthday, we were blessed to witness a once in a lifetime event- the rising of the Star of Bethlehem. On the longest day of the year, during one of the longest years of our lives, on the anniversary of the worst day of my life, we were reminded that there is hope in the world even today. It was a much needed gift from God to all of us.
Of course there is debate regarding if this is the same “Star of Bethlehem” that the Wise Men followed in order to find the newborn Christ. The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is nothing new and every 20 years or so they appear close together (although their closeness has not been like this in 800 years). But the proximity of the “stars” in the heavens at this point in time, when our society is desperately “seeking” for purpose, goodness, and hope doesn’t seem, at least to me, to be a fluke.
Today is the Epiphany- the 12th day of Christmas and the day we celebrate the Three Kings who saw the star, listened to God’s promptings, and began searching for the Savior. They would find him in Bethlehem, the City of David, just as promised. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that when they found Him, they “fell down and worshipped Him”. These men, highly respected and “kings” themselves recognized something greater within newborn child- His holiness and His eternal kingship. They were outsiders from the East who through God’s grace were able to know that this tiny babe was the promised Savior. They came bearing precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; gifts that had significant symbolism. Gold represented His Kingship, frankincense His divinity, and myrrh His suffering and redemption of us all. Their story in the Bible is not something we need to read and simply forget. No, it is a story that has significant importance in our own lives… especially now when the world seems desperate for purpose, searching for guidance, and hungry for hope.
So where do we find purpose, guidance, and hope?
I think it’s important to ask ourselves a question- what star we are following? The Wise Men saw the signs in the heavens and purposefully listened to God’s prompting to follow those signs. Where do we look for the signs we will follow? Do we look to social media? Do we look to Hollywood? Do we listen to the news? Do we look to our government? Or do we look to God- in His Church, in His people, and in His Holy Word?
Unfortunately I think that most of the problems of this world stem from a lack of faith and love of God. As a whole we have turned our back on the God who made us and who loves us- who sent His Son to redeem us. We have decided to make ourselves gods and to follow our own selfish desires and wants. Our “me” society works hard to get ahead, to secure all our wants, and to make sure that we are taken care of first. In doing so we forget about the needs of others, we lose track of the importance of community, and we allow sin to rule our lives. In the quest for personal gain and greatness, we lose what is truly most important- our relationship with our God and with one another.
We only have to look on social media or in any media to see that this is true. Truth is no longer absolute but instead is subjective. Do what you want as long as it makes you happy. Don’t worry about what others think or feel as long as it makes you feel good. Long gone is the need to uphold Truth (spelled with a capital T because it is different from truth). We see people extolling their beliefs as morally right and claim everyone else is wrong. They live their lives solely for themselves and condemn anyone who may think differently from them. People become armchair analysts of everything possible- they bicker and fight and insist that they are right; but they never change the minds of anyone because there isn’t any true dialogue. Truth gets pushed aside for personal agendas, beliefs, and wants.
How do we combat this idolatrous way of thinking and where can we find true guidance, purpose, and hope? The first step is recognizing the places in our own lives where we are creating gods and then weeding out our worship of those gods. Are we worried about status? Do we think we need to be loved by everyone? Do we need more likes on our social media or want to be recognized by others? Do we think we must have more and more belongings to be satisfied? Does our job and working for as much money or position as we can get occupy our minds and our time at all times? Does our sexuality define us? Do we want others to see our bodies instead of our hearts? Do we live to see others suffer? Do we rejoice when people aren’t as successful as we are? Do we ignore our families so that we can have as much time for ourselves as possible? Are we so prideful that we strive to be “right” always and never admit that we may be wrong? Do we work hard to prove our superiority over others? What god has taken over your life?
The second step we have to take is to re-center our lives on what is truly important. Our faith has to guide us in all we do. If we allow the ways of the world and the “truth” that it pushes on us (the “truth” that there is no Truth except the one you create) to guide us we will always come away wanting. The reason we feel unfilled is that we are filling our hearts, our minds, and our souls with the things of the world instead of with the love of God. If we can change what is important in our lives, we can become satisfied and happy. We can once again have a sense of purpose and hope. It takes extraordinary effort and determination on our part because living counter-cultural to the world is often difficult. However, the rewards are great for those who do.
Lastly, we must be willing to stand firm in proclaiming the Truth of God’s love, His guidance, and His salvation. The Wise Men saw the star, heard God’s calling, and acted. They traveled to find the King of Kings. Likewise, we are not called to passive faith. Instead, we are called to active faith. When the Herods of the world would like to destroy our faith and distort the Truth, we are called to continue to seek, to learn, to share, and to worship our God boldly yet with humility. We are called to put our selfish wants aside and to put God’s Will first.
What star are we following? Is it the brilliant Star of Bethlehem, the one that leads us to Christ or is it a false light that only leaves us feeling unfulfilled, desperate, and wanting more? My prayer for this New Year is that we will all see and follow the one Light that holds the Truth, that provides us with guidance, purpose, and hope, and that will fill our hearts with a love so great that we can’t help but share it with the world.