The light of that star reveals the brokenness and darkness that surrounds us and which was always there, but now the veil behind which it was hidden is torn. The new star reveals how inadequate human effort is, and reveals the destructiveness of hubris and denial. But, it also brings the promise of God’s perfect gift, lying in that manger, the promise that new and better things are to come, and indeed are already here, and that God’s will and love for us can never be denied or defeated. But fear Not! For in Jesus the dream becomes reality and the light he brings will never die.
As a kid, my two great loves were science and exploration. I would consume the National Geographic the second it arrived in the mail, and my bedroom was festooned with space posters, photos, astronomic charts, and lunar maps. I faithfully read the New York Times Science and Technology section every Sunday afternoon. I so wanted to be an explorer, or maybe a Scientist! In fact, for a long time my ultimate goal was to become an Astronaut, or perhaps an Astronomer!
But, becoming an Astronaut was simply not possible for someone as nearsighted as I am. So much for that dream, things change.
That left Astronomy, which I pursued diligently for a long time. In fact, I audited a college level Astronomy class in 9th grade.
I loved our late night labs in that course, hauling out the telescopes and looking at the moon, planets and stars. Plus, hanging with college kids late at night was – ah – educational. That class was really fun, and cool – not to mention cold, there in Wyoming in the late fall!
What you soon learn when you regularly and carefully observe the celestial sphere is that the Sun, Moon and stars circle overhead, faithfully following their courses year after year. True, the planets wander, but even their wanderings have a regular pattern. And so, particularly for the ancients, nothing about the heavens is random. All the movements they saw were very regular, very repetitive and very predictable. From the point of view of the ancients, the only things that broke the rules were an occasional eclipse, or the rare comet. When such things occurred, their strangeness, unpredictability and frightening appearance were often taken as evidence of turmoil in the heavens: a sign of supernatural displeasure, great catastrophes, and doom.
But then we have the star in this morning’s reading.
Lord, Advent and Christmas are a dark time for many, a time when the pain of past and present injuries and losses become almost unbearable. A time we’d rather not face all over again.
And yet, the purpose of Advent is to remind us of our brokenness and sin, of our need for the grace and healing touch of a God who loves us fiercely and compassionately. Further, Christmas teaches us that God knows our pain because God has lived it: walking among us as one of us, as a human being. Jesus experienced birth, the love of a devoted mother, the pain of losing those dear to him. He knew rejection, hunger, despair and fear. He was betrayed by those he loved, and he experienced a painful and humiliating death. God knows what it means to be human. God knows our deepest, greatest, most deeply hidden fears, failures and weaknesses.
And so, our faith tells us, Jesus is Emmanuel – the God who walks with us. God and the Kingdom of Heaven are near us at the hardest of moments, and for every moment of our lives, including now.
Presented at First Baptist Church, Belmont, MA; June 17, 2012.
Scriptures: 2nd Corinthians 5:6-17 (We walk by faith, not by sight…)
Mark 4:26-34 (The Parable of the Seed that Grows of Itself and the Parable of the Mustard Seed)
How many of you are familiar with the Garlic Mustard plant?
It’s a common weed in this area. If you crush its leaves, it smells like garlic; and it has a taste similar to that of mustard, hence it’s name. In colonial times it was a common herb, since the colonists had no money to buy spices from overseas, such as pepper, even if they had access to them. It was also very easy to grow. …Perhaps a bit too easy.