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.
…the landscape is not as dark or cold or empty as we thought, because The Light is already here. We carry it with us wherever we go, and so it continues to beckon to all those who are wandering in the darkness – a beacon guiding the nations to a place of light and warmth, and the promise of an Epiphany of their own.
When I was 12, my family moved from Vermont to Wyoming. As you might guess, it was quite a transition. Here I was: a New England boy used to rolling hills, abundant trees, air that was humid, and lots of little towns sharing borders with other little towns; but we were relocating to a sparsely inhabited desert plateau a mile and a half above sea level and surrounded by mountains – real mountains – not the green bumps we have here in New England.
I remember as we drove out, constantly quizzing my Father:
So Dad, we’re moving to Laramie, right?
So, what other towns are around it?
There aren’t any. Rawlins is the next town up on the highway, on the other side of the Snowy Range, about 100 miles away.
Huh, but … what’s in between? There must be towns in between!
Really? Well, but what’s in-between Rawlins and Laramie, then? There’s got to be something!
…The fact that every acre of land in the country wasn’t within some town’s boundaries, as is true here in New England, just did not compute for me. There was no such thing in my experience as a town that bordered on … nothing!