The Eleventh Day of Christmas: Wise Men Curious about That Star

January 5, 2014

A couple weeks ago, I had a big decision to make about my cancer treatment: whether to continue radiation to a definitive level (60 Gray) and forgo surgery, or to consider radiation “done” at its current pre-operative level (45 Gray) and plan on lung surgery. I opted for the latter and am preparing for one more round of chemo to be followed by surgery to remove the dying Beast and the lobe it inhabits at the end of February. The decision-making process was facilitated by a chart I worked out, with options and their benefits and risks. decision grid You can see that I started with a few known facts, but the rest was speculation based on studies and research data. Ultimately, it was up to me to decide, and I only wished there were more entries in the “Known Facts” column to guide me. [I am very thankful, however, for the excellent information and guidance I got from all three of my doctors. But even they don’t know everything.]

When it’s dark, literally or figuratively, it is hard to see ahead much less to navigate. There’s a lot of guesswork to life, so God is generous with his offer, “Hey, if you realize you don’t have enough wisdom, ask me, and I will provide plenty of it” (James 1:15). And then there are times when one does not realize there is even a need, or that God is providing an answer to a question that hasn’t been articulated yet. I think this latter possibility is what the magi were facing as they looked at the heavens around the time of Jesus’ birth.

The stargazers were professionals from maybe Persia or Saudi Arabia who studied the heavens for omens and clues to life. They might have been astrologers, but they were not “kings.” The Scriptures say they were “magi” (or “wise men”) who noticed something extraordinary in the sky—a supernova? a confluence of two planets? lots of interesting studies about what could have produced a prolonged “bright star” —and derived meaning from it. What they saw moved them to action, because by their interpretation, the bright object in the sky was leading them somewhere they needed to find. How they came up with a name, “the King of the Jews,” I do not know, but that fact alone led them logically to Israel’s capitol Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1-6). The natural phenomenon got them close to the action, but not quite to a full revelation, which would come when Jewish teachers they consulted showed them the Scriptures. [Nature can point us toward God but is an incomplete witness to Jesus specifically.]

The story, which I hope will be explored by my readers’ preachers this week on the feast of Epiphany (tomorrow, January 6), is rich with homiletic material. What I would like to focus on is God’s faithfulness to provide a means for even Gentiles to find Jesus. God used the language those magi could understand—stars and astronomical phenomena—to bring them into the Nativity scene. What they encountered in the sky was so extraordinary and out of place, they had to investigate. They followed God’s leading to an unknown destination and found what God wanted them to see. They realized the potential for good and harm, as evidenced by Matthew’s account (2:7-12). As a result of their discovery, they decided to keep Herod in the dark about the specifics of their findings and to return home avoiding any further encounter with him.

I’m not into stargazing myself, but God has intruded upon my life in other ways that have gotten my attention. My cancer diagnosis certainly has been accompanied by God-sightings, and God is leading me through this dark valley with a pillar of fire and a certain amount of wisdom to hold me together. In this, God is acting according to his character already displayed throughout the history of his people. When Abraham was called upon to uproot himself and move to Canaan, God said, “Go to a land that I will show you . . .” (Genesis 12:1-3). At the dramatic escape that launched the Exodus, God led the Israelites into and through the Sinai Peninsula with pillars of cloud during the day and pillars of fire at night. In the New Testament, it is the Holy Spirit who leads (Matthew 4:1; Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18) and guides (John 16:13; Galatians 5:25). God really wants us to find our way!

So the question for us today is this: How is God getting you to a place where you can see Jesus?  How do you find your way in the dark, as daily realities befuddle or confuse you? What (or perhaps Who) is the guiding light for you to follow toward Christ?  What role does Scripture play in your quest? You may never have enough entries in the “Known Facts” column, but what you do have is the unfailing testimony of God’s love, compassion, wisdom, and promise as you seek to follow him. And though he may not unfold all the pertinent information to answer all your inquiries, God has your best interest at heart and is giving you enough to go on for now. It takes the wisdom he will provide to piece all that together and suggest to you a legitimate, faith-building path. So follow the Star, fill in the gaps with your knowledge of Scripture and, keeping your eye on Jesus, run the race that is set before you. God will keep you on course and lead you to the destination!




5 Responses to “The Eleventh Day of Christmas: Wise Men Curious about That Star”

  1. “…Gpd used the language those Magi could understand.” And us.

  2. William Goff Says:

    Dear Mary, I am deeply touched by your faith and courage in dealing with your cancer. And I am impressed with your daily comments on the Bible and how you see them anew due to your illness. (I’m wondering if you have read Kenneth Bailey’s books and seen some of his DVDs. His cultural analysis of the birth narratives is unique and illuminating.) My prayers are with you as you battle cancer. In many ways I think you have already won the battle. God bless you and yours.
    Bill Goff

  3. […] The Eleventh Day of Christmas: Wise Men Curious about That Star […]

  4. Jim Skidmore Says:

    Rev. Mary,
    Thank you for brining the good news which shall be for all people! We are praying for continued healing and wisdom for all the medical people assisting. Thank you for sharing the hope of Jesus.


  5. Jim Skidmore Says:

    Rev. Mary I loved you message yesterday. I want to say “at a girl Mary”. We need to stay focused and believe as Abraham did. Blessings!


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