by Don Watson
The family room in our last house was 28 feet high. I bought a Christmas tree that was only seven feet high. It looked really small, but I didn’t want to pay $85 for three more lousy feet. So I paid $23 for my little short tree. Nancy decorated it. Did a great job considering it was such a short tree. She used white lights. (Did you know that WAY-FM conducted a survey and people use white lights four-to-one over colored lights – that made me feel better) Two whole strings of lights were left over because the tree was so small. She put crafty little ornaments all over it. (Looks like there’s a million of them cause our tree is so short) Some of the ornaments even had our grandkids pictures on them. They’re right in the middle so you can see them real good.
But of course, the crowning decoration, the best part of the whole tree, there in all of its glory, perched right on top of the highest bough (which is not very high), is the shining … cat. Cat? CAT? What is a cat doing on top of a Christmas tree? It’s a gray cat – a tall, very tall gray cat. (I suspect, so as to make the tree look not so short) And this cat has wings – angel wings, and a golden satin robe with evergreen branches around its neck. It’s an angel cat. Nancy tells me that the cat is in memory of Emma, who disappeared just before we left Miami. Now I don’t think Nancy has any trouble with her theology about cats & Angels. All I want to know is: “What happened to the star?
Good question for all of us: “What happened to the Star?” Do any of us see it anymore? I’m not talking about the one on your tree, or the live Nativity at your church or atop the one at Times Square. I’m talking about the One that led the Wise Men to the Christ Child.
Matthew tells the story and how it led the Wise men to the stable in Bethlehem. One Christian Lawyer, Rick Larson, has done a very interesting study of the astronomy at the birth of Christ. He believes it was a natural astrological occurrence planned by God to lead the Wise Men to Jesus. Another Christian writer, Ellen White, believes that when the glorious display of light, recorded by Luke in the Gospels, faded from the multitude of angels who appeared to the shepherds, a small band of these angels remained and became the Star of Bethlehem. Far away in the east, the magi observed this distant band of angels, but there was no natural explanation for its existence. What was this amazing heavenly phenomenon? It was nowhere to be found on any of their charts. Led by the Holy Spirit, they searched the holy writings of the ancients, and there, an obscure Hebrew prophet by the name of Balaam, wrote these cryptic words in his fourth oracle, “A star will come out of Jacob, a scepter will rise out of Israel”. Was this the promised King who would come to save all men – the deliverer they had discovered in their diligent search of the scriptures? As they pondered the meaning of all these things and continued to observe the star, it began to move … toward Israel, and continued to do so until it stopped over Jerusalem – a journey that took perhaps a long as 2 years. They fully expected the entire city to be in a buzz about the birth of Israel’s long awaited Messiah/King. But alas, no one knew anything about it. So they enquired of King Herod. Constantly concerned that some rival king would try to take over his throne, Herod called in the priests and demanded that they tell Him where their Messiah was to be born. They quoted the Prophet Micah who declared: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." Micah 5:2. And so the Wise Men left the palace of the King whereupon the star again began to move and rested over the place where Jesus was. (Matthew 2:9). There they found the Christ Child and worshiped Him, giving Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Whether the star was a God-ordained astronomical event or a personalized arrangement of angels who led these faithful believers to the Christ-child is certainly not worth a debate to me, even though I prefer the latter. The more important issue is that the Wise Men saw the Star because they were looking for it. Or perhaps, more accurately, they were looking for God, Himself. To God, it’s all about a relationship. Look for it, you’ll find it!
HAVE YOU SEEN THE STAR? Do your skies on occasion light up in a blaze of glory like it did for the shepherds? Maybe God answers your prayer for healing or the stock market delivers you a windfall. Maybe you finally get a job or a raise that allows you to get a new car. But what if all that fades and you only see darkness and a faint little star a long ways away and years pass by like it did for the Wisemen? What happens then? Is it easy to discontinue your quest for Jesus when life is dark
and the sky doesn’t explode with the song of the angels?
The journey is long and the night is dark and my doubts can obscure the star.
Discouragement and boredom and trials can make, my God seem ever so far,
But may I never give up my quest for the child, who anxiously waits to see …
The face of someone He looks for and loves … ‘cause that “someone He loves” is me. (DW)
HAVE YOU SEEN THE STAR?
Like the song says, “Everyone is looking for someone. Everyone is searching for something.” That emptiness after a drink, or a high, or a cheap love affair; that gnawing down deep in your belly that you try to satisfy with junk food, drugs, or a movie; that craving for something more in your soul like a little more money in your bank account, a few more clients, a little more success – that may be your misplaced journey to find the star. Have you seen THAT star? It’s trying to lead you to Jesus – a relationship with the Christ child is the only thing that will satisfy you and finally give you peace.
Some of us even try to fill the emptiness we feel with church, service, obedience, spiritual sacrifices, and a profound knowledge of the scriptures. But these things can’t fill the emptiness and really give your life meaning and peace. A real relationship with Jesus – the Christ Child – is the only thing that will satisfy. Jesus is trying to lead you to Him. Have you seen THAT Star?
Or perhaps you’ve got this theory – You’re a good person – good as anyone else. You don’t need church or religion. You do your best. If there is a God, wouldn’t that be good enough for Him? To me, the story of the Star settles that issue. The Magi weren’t Israelites, they were heathen, but God Himself implanted inside of them the desire to worship the King who created the heavens, whoever He was. It did not matter what denomination or religion He belonged to or where they had to go to find Him. They followed the Star trusting it would take them to the King. To them, it wasn’t about their wealth, hard work, gifts or goodness. They came because they wanted to see the Christ Child and worship Him. They didn’t know exactly what that meant, but inside of them something or someone beckoned them to follow the Star no matter how hard, or long, or difficult the journey. They expected nothing in return. They came only to give to Him, worship Him, and adore Him. What they discovered and received was the most marvelous gift of all the ages – a God who cared enough about them that He would send them their own personal star just so He could meet them. So whoever you are, He just wants to meet you. HAVE YOU SEEN THE STAR?
These three men must have been a curious sight as they entered Jerusalem in their “3-camel-stretch-limo”. Occasionally they stopped, rolled down the tinted glass windows and inquired: “Where is He that is born King of the Jews, for we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him?” Like we said, they fully expected everyone to be excited about the newborn King. King Herod calls in the priests to assist the magi in their search. But the priests were offended. They were not interested in being helpful to these “Heathen”. Besides, God would never have passed them by and revealed the arrival of the promised Messiah to perfect strangers. Only after Herod threatened them did they reveal that Bethlehem was to be the birthplace.
So why did God pass His chosen people by and reveal the birth of the long awaited Messiah to heathen, strangers, gentiles? These men were not the sons and daughters of Abraham. They didn’t have God’s law. They didn’t have “the Truth”. They didn’t belong to the right church. They were not the remnant. There is no way God would announce the most important event of the ages to heathen and pass them by. So the religious leaders concluded: This could not be the promised Messiah! The arrogance of the religious leaders refused to accept that God would work through sinners, heathen, strangers outside the true church. So they never saw the star.
How about us? Does God ever pass us by and reveal the Christ Child to a Mormon, Muslim, Baptist, or Hare Krishna. How about a Homeless person, prisoner, or a poor, pregnant, unmarried teenager? Do others see the Star and we do not? Do we rejoice when other churches or denominations experience revival and thousands are baptized into their faith? Are we thrilled that Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, or Rob Bell are so successful? Or do we conclude that these men are just “soft on sin?” Perhaps God is not “passing us by” so much as He is including others in His Salvation. What if the heathen or people of other churches and denominations come to us like the Wise Men came to Jerusalem? Would we join them and follow the star to Bethlehem to worship the Christ Child? Or does God have to come to us first? Might we be guilty of rejecting the Christ Child just because God decided to use “sinners” or “heathen” to announce His arrival? If we worship our churches instead of the Christ Child, we may never see the star. HAVE YOU SEEN THE STAR?
The Priests could have seen it? God would have loved to have shown them the star. He could have led them to Jesus, just like He did the Magi. But their Messiah would never be born in a stinking stable. Their God would never be lying in a manger and He would never be born to an unwed mother. So they never saw the Star and they never met their Savior. HAVE YOU SEEN THE STAR?
God wants to lead us to the Christ Child today just as much as He did long ago. But we, just like the priests, can have our own ideas what He’s supposed to be like and where we’ll find Him. We’re not ready for the star to lead us to the back streets of Nashville or the Rescue Mission. The Child would never rip you off on the I-65 off-ramp claiming to be willing to work for food. He doesn’t look dirty or unshaven. He’s not a welfare widow with 2 illegitimate children. Certainly He wouldn’t be gay, or in prison for rape or murder – so we never meet the Savior and we never see the star. You see, it wouldn’t do any good. We’d never believe this child or that person was the Savior anyway. So there’d be no use for God to show us the Star? HAVE YOU SEEN THE STAR?
There were hundreds in Israel who never saw the Star – not because they were wicked or bad – they just weren’t looking for a real relationship with God. Maybe they were too busy or distracted. I don’t believe the Inn Keeper was bad. He actually tried to help. But what would he have done if he had known it was the long-awaited Messiah who wanted a real relationship with him right now as He was being born? You see, he could have seen the Star. but all he saw was that he had no room at the inn.
The merchant, hawking his wares in the streets, could have seen the Star but all he saw were dollar signs and the glimmer of candle light reflecting off the trinkets on his cart.
The housewife, tired and exhausted, could have seen the Star but all she saw were the dishes, still piled up in her sink and the dust collecting on her furniture. HAVE YOU SEEN THE STAR?
Like the Magi, is the quest for the King the passion of our lives, or frazzled and frustrated with life, do we live for fun-filled weekends to give our pathetic little lives some tidbit of meaning? Then, we just might miss the Star.
Are we weekend "Wisemen"? With our kingly garments cleaned and pressed, our camels waxed, washed and all gassed up for our weekly pilgrimage where we sort of “come and adore Him.” But when the sun sets Saturday night, do we set about to follow different stars, worship within different stables, kneel before different mangers, and bow before different Gods. DO WE SO QUICKLY FORGET THE STAR?
At this special time of the year do the blinking lights on our Christmas trees, the decorations on our front lawn, and the dazzling lights of down town, blind us to the Star and the relationship it leads us to? Have the ribbons and wrappings, the bells and bows, the toys and clothes, glorified the gifts the Wise men brought rather than a relationship with the child they worshipped? CAN WE STILL SEE THE STAR AT ALL?
The blinding light of the angels that set the skies of Bethlehem ablaze with the glory of God was never meant to be obliterated by the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, awesome animated window displays in Macy’s department store, or lavish laser light shows at Disney World. God desires that His glory be duplicated in His people by the way they care for others – glory that obliterates the look of fear from the faces of humanity – fear of God’s disapproval or condemnation, fear from harm, hunger, abuse, or being alone. God wants His people to be consumed with the passion of sharing His love, acceptance and forgiveness to all men – whether black or white, rich or poor, bond or free, saint or sinner (and even use words if necessary). ARE YOU BEGINNING TO SEE THE STAR?
The night Jesus was born, an angel appeared to lowly shepherds and they were sore afraid. Why? Their picture of God! But the angel says: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great Joy for all people. For unto YOU, [YOU! YOU!], is born this day. [Right now, it’s a fact], a Savior”. [Whoever you are, He has saved YOU.]
I believe it is extremely significant that this message was given to rough, common, unreligious shepherds who probably thought, “Surely he would never save me. You don’t know me like I know me. I smoke, I drink, I’m impure and I can’t stop – Sometimes I don’t even want to stop.”
But the angel disagrees: “No, you don’t understand. This is the best part. I’ve got a sign for you, so you’ll know all I’ve said to you is true. Because of this sign, you’ll know
- That you don’t have to be afraid
- That this good news will bring you great joy.
- And this Savior is really yours.”
Here’s the sign …
It’ll be a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a stable, lying in a manger. Not a palace nursery with a $5000 crib (Not just the rich or successful, anybody can come). It’s just a baby (Not some intimidating warrior or powerful, vengeful king). Yep, your Savior is just a baby (No one’s afraid of a baby). That’s your sign – so you know you don’t have to be afraid.”
Then the night sky exploded. 1000’s upon 1000’s and ten thousand times ten thousands of brilliant angels set the heavens ablaze and then became a star. And just like the shepherds, just like the wise men, it’s your star, YOUR very own star – so you’d know He wants you to come
Do you see the star now? Please see the star. Come rich & poor, Come saints & sinners, Come shepherds & Kings – come all ye who labor and are heavy laden. Follow the Star. The Baby Jesus, God of the universe, wants us. O Come let us adore Him.