I bet I can guess your life season by your answer to a single question. (That’s a polite way to say that I can guess your age! Ha!) So here’s the question. Do you have a paper map or road atlas in your car?
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 – NIV
Have you ever felt like a stranger in a strange land? There’s nothing quite so disconcerting than trying to navigate an unfamiliar city without clear directions. It’s such a challenge to read street signs while watching out for pedestrians, red lights and throngs of other vehicles barreling past. I’m in that life season in which I can remember doing all that simultaneously while trying to read a paper road map spread across the passenger seat. Talk about distracted driving!
I was never above stopping to ask for directions when my map reading skills failed me, but my husband, well, that’s a different story! Enter GPS, and suddenly, there was a technology solution for our navigation nightmares. Simply pull up the desired phone app, type the address of your chosen destination in the text field and tap the start button. Without angst or irritation, the pleasant automated voice emerges from our dashboard speaker and guides us on our way.No hassles, no marital arguments, no anxiety laden dithering over a road atlas. Travel made easy.
But travel wasn’t so easy for some long ago travelers I’m thinking of this morning.
“We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star”*
No, travel wasn’t so easy for those three kings of the Orient, those Magi from the east,. Yet, those wise men were driven by purpose, emboldened by their beliefs. They studied the prophecies and believed in the coming Messiah. Their heart’s desire was to see the Christ Child, to bear witness to the fulfillment of the prophecies. They studied and prayed, and searched for a sign.
“Star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright…”*
The sign came, a bright light breaking through the darkness, a star of wonder to light the way.. Those wise men saw the star and believed. This was the moment they had prayed for. This was their guide to the Christ child. They saw the star, and they made up their minds. Without certainty of the terrain or their final destination, they saddled up the camels and set out on their search.. The road before them wasn’t easy, full of obstacles and hazards, but they didn’t give up when the going got rough. Instead, they set their gaze on their guiding star, and let it lead them to their long awaited Messiah.
Two thousand years later, we find ourselves in much the same position, still seeking the Christ, still yearning to know the Messiah, yet finding the road ahead uncertain, the path before us unclear. We wander along like strangers in a strange land unable to get our bearings, searching for answers and finding only obstacles. From pandemic perils to political strife to the trials of everyday life, we find ourselves staring at a landscape that is unfamiliar at best, treacherous at worst. How do we proceed? How do we move forward?
Perhaps we can take a lesson from the wise men. Those three kings embarked on their journey fortified by faith, fueled by hope and motivated by love. They had to travel lightly, packing only what benefited their safe passage, discarding the extra baggage that might have weighed them down. They kept their eyes on their guiding light, believing fully in its promise. They set their gaze upon that brilliant star and let it lead them all the way to the Christ Child.
You and I find ourselves at the crossroads of another year. 2022 stretches before us. We can begin this journey weighed down by worry, paralyzed by fear, discouraged by the trials, losses and mistakes of the past. We can stumble ahead, tripping over the pitfalls of this earthly life, letting the distractions of this world steer us off course. Or we can choose to travel a different way. We can let the Light lead us.
Following the example of the Magi, we can embark on this new year fortified by faith, fueled by hope and motivated by love. We can cast aside any baggage that might Hinder us, fixing our eyes on our guide, perhaps not a bright star in the east, but the gift of the Holy Spirit that draws us near to Christ. Like the Magi, we can find our Messiah. Like those faithful three kings, we can draw near and worship Him, bearing gifts, not of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but offering our time, talents, gifts and service for His glory.
The journey is before us. The appointed time is now. There is no bright star to guide us, no address to type into a GPS text field. Still, we are not alone, never forsaken nor forgotten. The Spirit of Christ is with us always. His love and grace lights the way.
“Westward leading, still proceeding…”*
As we step into this new year, will we keep our eyes on Christ? Will we believe His promises and seek His good way? I hope so. For if we follow where He leads us, it will surely be a better year.
“Star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.”*
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
Isaiah 60:1 – NIV
O King Jesus, guide us to Thy perfect light. Show us the way forward, fortifying us for the journey. May we step out in faith, fueled by hope and motivated by love. Please accept the humble gifts of our time, talents, gifts and service that You might use them for Your glory. Lord, let us seek You and find You, and let us become a shining light that leads others to You.
In the Guiding Name of Jesus, we pray,
New Year’s Blessings,
**Lyrics from the hymn “We Three Kings”