“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. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.”
With the birth of our first son, we participated in that ritual act well known by many of putting everything breakable out of reach. Hence, when Advent seasons comes these days my treasured nativity scene with patchwork porcelain and tiny pieces did not come out of the box. Instead we found a Fisher-Price plastic one that our two boys, now five and three, have come to love as it sits on our coffee table this time each year. So the other week while we were in our very own hustle and bustle of “unpacking Christmas” (an odd term worthy of discussion another time), we enlisted the boys with the task of putting out the nativity set. Admittedly, I didn’t pay much attention as they chatted back and forth about what piece went where, what had fallen down and what was missing. That was until my oldest, Connor, shared with me that it was in fact baby Jesus that was missing. Uh-oh. So hence began the search -under tables, in boxes, beneath the sofa, and every crack and corner. I thought to myself, “I can replace a wise man with the Lego mini figure, but how do I replace baby Jesus?”
All of a sudden, three-year-old Owen crawled out of a tiny crevice between the sofa and end table, jumping up with the unbridled passion that those who have been around young children will recognize screaming, “I found him, I found him….I found baby Jesus!” (This is usually the kind of passion and volume he uses for dinosaurs, cars and trains so the whole house, maybe even the neighbors, heard him). There he was holding the tiny little plastic Fisher-Price baby Jesus in his hands and with a joyful look no words can describe.
Admitting my own biases, I usually don’t think of wise men as filled with the same kind of wild abandonment and excitement that Owen had, and yet I’m hoping that was the case on that night long ago. They had discovered a small baby in an unassuming manager after a long journey, following a star and listening to angels. It was the birth of salvation and the promise of hope. A birth that would transform the world, and transform each of us…how could anyone contain their excitement and joy in light of that?
And so as we prepare for the sacred and even secular experiences of Christmas – as we wrap presents, run errands, welcome family, and make our travels; as we rush around in the next week or perhaps intentionally not rush around at all, how can we be filled with the joy of a young child in our discovery and re-discovering of a baby in a manger? How can we, even in times even in times of trial and struggle, make space in our hearts for the kind of amazement the wise men may have had on that night? How can we bring unabashed joy to the audacious, mysterious and reality affirming assertion that God took on eyes and ears, hands and feet, hunger and tears, joy and pain to make the world anew? These are my questions today and these are my prayers. Most of all, I hope each of us finds our own way to make space for that kind of joy in the weeks ahead.
Let us pray,
God, instill and encourage within us the amazement of wise men and the joy of children as we celebrate that you came into this world to live among us. Journey with us in this year ahead as we celebrate your birth, not simply on one day in December, but every day in how we live, how we love, and how we serve both stranger and friend. Amen.