“When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.”
– Matthew 2:9 (NRSV)
This Monday is the Winter Solstice—the shortest day of the year. The forecast is calling for gloom–with the possibility for snow. That sounds like “the usual” for stoical Chicagoans this time of year. But if the heavens happen to break (and they surely must), you may be afforded a magnificent sight: the “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, last seen on earth in 1226. It will be our “Christmas Star,” shining down brightly for a few weeks on us in these uncertain times.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us how “magi from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’” The Magi weren’t magicians and they probably were not kings. They may have been astrologers: Zoroastrian caretakers of the Light. Whoever they were, they were seeking a child who was Israel’s true king: the Son of David, and for those who believe, the Child whose name is Emmanuel, “God-with-Us.” These priests weren’t particularly politic: they told old King Herod they weren’t looking for him. As a result, they had to head home “by another way.” They weren’t the last to do that…
When the violence and vanity, the fury and the farce of this world gets to be too much for me, I take solace in the stars. God’s finest handiwork, they shine serenely above us, bringing light to dark places like the star Elbereth did for Frodo and Samwise as they struggled through the Mountains of Shadow in J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings.” When the light within us grows dim and flickers in the face of steep troubles and sorrows, we find comfort and strength by looking up from our lives. It’s not about us. High above this world’s miasmas, through which we all must toil on the upward (and sometimes not-so-upward) way, the angels are still singing and the light is still shining–the light that no darkness can utterly extinguish or overcome. And the really good news is this: the same Light can be kindled in us (if we’re not too proud to ask). Like oil lamps, are hearts have been fashioned for it.
So now on this Christmas, along with the Magi, look up from your life! Come all you faithful, come in adoration, and let the Christ-light shine in you!