The Star Precedes

Traveling home for the holidays has always been a debate in our family.  On the one hand, we can’t imagine not being with loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family members during the holidays.  On the other hand, everyone ends up feeling disappointed because it wasn’t enough time together, or it was hurried, etc.  Every year we discuss doing it differently, but we always travel back because in the end, the pilgrimage is the biggest gift we can give.  Like the wise men who travel to see the newborn King, we prepare for weeks to venture a distance to our loved ones with gifts in tow, facing the traffic, weather, illness, or whatever challenges befall us, as an act of love.  Whether or not we are able to continue this practice with our almost-adult children, is left to be said. But as difficult or miserable as the journey has sometimes been, and even when we leave family feeling disappointed because our time together is never enough, it is love that drives us home.



Gospel MT 2:1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod, 
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled, 
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, 
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, 
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly 
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word, 
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, 
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures 
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, 
they departed for their country by another way.
When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…
The spirit of a leader is contagious.  Often by walking into a business establishment or working with certain companies, you will notice a spirit of oppression, or a spirit of joy. The management and their goals and methods will either boost or poison a company.  Over the years, I have worked in various kinds of companies depending on my state in life, particularly in college, when I did multiple part-time jobs to pay for books and tuition.  At a few of these places, I could sense something was wrong.  Eventually it led to finding out that the person who owned the company or even the manager, was involved in some kind of destructive behavior (cheating workers out of money, extra-marital affairs, etc.) Conversely, when entering into a company or organization where the owner or manager was a person with dignity and honor, who treated their employees with value, the entire establishment seemed to be alight with purpose and a sense of community.  It is the same with Herod in this chapter of Matthew.  His community sensed his instability, being over run by pride and fear, poisoning everything around him, as we know, ending in the slaughter of many innocent children who may or may not be the “king” who threatened Herod, just by his birth.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them…
Isaiah chapter 45 reminds us that God goes before us always, leveling the mountains and hills, making the “crooked places straight”, as some versions recite.  The star, seemingly outside of science and time–beheld by the heirs of its prophesy–started, moved and stopped of its course by God’s clock alone.  God works outside of human laws.  We can miss an opportunity, and he can provide another.  We can mess up the timing of an important event, and he can shift things into place despite us.  I have seen this again and again in my life.  We just have to keep our intentions in line with God’s will and remember that He deigns all things to come together for His glory and good when we allow Him into our lives.
We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage…
What does it mean to do homage? I went to the thesaurus and followed an interesting trail of synonyms, which of course it begins and ends with respect.  If we take it a step further, it is to revere and show loyalty.  Even more?  Fealty and even submission.  In true humility, we take our pride and vanity out of the equation of “success”, or we cannot really know the power of God.  It isn’t what I do or don’t do, it isn’t about ME.  It isn’t what people think of me, how they respect me, what I get credit for doing, or the attention I get or don’t get.  We have become a society that is automated, independent, self-sufficient, prideful.  Let us not walk one step further into this year without the reality of our dependence on God.  We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for God, and all that we accomplish is because of Him.  When we don’t feel “appreciated”, check out the red flag.  We aren’t here on this earth to be appreciated.  We are here to love and we love BECAUSE of God, FOR God, WITH God, and UNTO God when it seems no one else will notice or care.  He sees all that you do.  He is the beginning and the end of your good works and your purpose.  Keep that in mind as we set about trying to carve a niche…if we make it about us, notice how fast and how many times we will hit a wall or a dead end? Whether we recognize it or not, all that we have and do are by His graces and blessings.  We are simple the recipients of His goodness.  Let us give all praise and glory to Him who created the mighty mountains, the deepest oceans and the tiniest of creatures.  Follow the star, my friends.  It leads to great wonder and joy.

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