“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and are come to worship Him.” Matthew 2: 1-2
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The winter solstice, the longest and some say the darkest night of the year, dawned upon us on Monday. Judging from the overcast sky, the description might seem to hold true.
Mr. Bogey, our hound dog, and I walk the beach early every day, rain or shine, independent of any solstice. We take the day as it comes. What other way is there to take life but deal with what it dishes out.
This morning the sky obscured any hint of sunlight, although we knew it was there, hiding behind the cloud cover. There was a chill in the air. Then suddenly the clouds parted, the sun shone brightly, but only for a minute or so, then retreated to its hiding place.
Yet this was enough for us, just to know the sun always comes up. Millennia past, there were pagan festivals to beg the sun to return, since it had been retreating for six months. Bonfires and festivities did little to coax the sun back. Still, it came.
Pagan rituals have largely disappeared among us, unless you call frantic Christmas shopping a pagan ritual. Mounds of gifts beneath an evergreen tree will not shoo away the darkness, but the abundance of lights on the tree does good work in reminding us that there is light in the universe.
This year a celestial phenomenon occurs. Jupiter and Saturn cross paths high in the southwestern sky. It had not occurred since the days of the Renaissance, back in the 1700’s. And it won’t recur until 2085. I’m sorry if you missed it.
The spectacle was incredible. It was as though the two planets merged, forming a large star. It has been noted that the same phenomena occurred some 2,000 years ago and could have perhaps been the star referred to in the above scripture. Who can say? But it took a real stargazer to follow such a spectacle to a manger in Bethlehem.
It’s said the Magi saw the star in the east, which depends on how scripture is read. The Magi were in the east, but the star was in the west as it appeared to us. Whatever, the brightness of it was a sight to behold. Maybe it was simply a heavenly emanation, an angel, so to speak.
Scripture has many references to angels, which is why we have a tiny one perched always at the pinnacle of our Christmas tree. She smiles upon us when the tree is lit:
Clothed in light and mystery
Her place atop the tree,
The Angel of the Heavenly Three
Broods in silence The Nativity.
Christmas, if nothing else, is a time for imagination and contemplation, of intrigue and the mystery of angelic spirits. Even the secular world has its own Christmas spirits: St. Nicholas, Santa Claus and the ghost of Jacob Marley. Could angelic hosts be integrally part of the birth of Jesus, and be associated with the nativity of all births? Who is to say?
We’re told that God “…maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire…ministering spirits sent to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.”
Scripture further references angels: “Be not doubtful to entertain strangers, for in so doing many have entertained angels unawares.” Now that’s something to ponder.
To intrude into the sphere of angels is to leave one awed, confounded and mystified. Late at night while the family sleeps, the dog curled up nearby, I gaze in wonder at the multitude of lights on our tree. I recall the words of Jesus: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”
In Bethlehem a Child was born over 2,000 years ago. “What child is this,” we sing, and wonder. I ask our angel this question and intuit the reply:
Who is this Child I hear you say?
Why, He is the answer to a better way.
This Child of Peace in Heaven holds sway
He is the Promise of a much better way.
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‘A much better way?’ I imagine the possibilities.
May the joys, hopes and child-like wonder of Christmas fill your homes and your hearts. Merry Christmas.
December 23, 2020