Do You See What I See?
Chaplain Bill Wolfe
Hello, and welcome to another Christmas Edition of the Chaplain’s Corner. My December 2005 article, “Christmas on the Dog Watch,” started with my musing about a bright star that I’d see each night. As I write this year, I’m still on the day watch, but that article and that star came back to my memory when I worked on patrol well after dark not too long ago.
What was different about that star? “A star is a star is a star, right?” Heehee, spoken like a true city-slicker that can’t see the stars. Well, first off, it seemed larger than the stars around it and somehow it seemed closer than the others. It was very bright and shone with a steady light. (I heard that, wiseguy…no, it WASN’T the moon.) My thoughts were again drawn towards the Christmas Star and this piece of Christmas carol:
♪ Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see,
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night,
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.”♫
The Christmas Star is mentioned in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (NASB)
I want to take a few minutes and look at a few points about this Scripture.
“Magi” isn’t a term we hear frequently in our society in this day and age. These men were what we’d more likely call scholars. They were astronomers and astrologers. The night sky was their area of expertise, so it would be expected that they’d notice something unusual. What it was about this star that caught their attention is never mentioned, but something about it signified to them that an event of great importance was about to or had just taken place.
Why didn’t others see the star? Presumably it was visible to the “general public,” but then to the casual observer “a star is a star is a star.” Some probably saw the star and said “Wow! Now that’s a star!” and went on about their business. When God tries to get our attention, sadly some just aren’t interested.
Religion in Policing
Did you notice in the Scripture they didn’t ask “For Whom does the star shine?” They asked “Where is He?” God had settled in their hearts the certainty of what the Star was all about. God had set up a “homing beacon,” if you will, to guide these men.
One other thing that jumps out at me in this passage of Scripture: generally one pays homage to a king, yet they came to worship this one. Subtle difference in meaning perhaps, but while homage is an action to show honor or respect and can be merely for show, worship is the out-flowing of the heart with love and adoration towards what is being worshipped.
A few verses later, the Scripture records that where the star had been leading west for the whole journey, it now changed location and led them south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. As they traveled south, the star rose higher in the sky “until it came and stood over where the Child was.”
We live “out in the country” where there aren’t a lot of ground lights to drown out the stars. As I was walking Mr. Dog here a few minutes ago, I turned out the flashlight and looked up at the night sky. I tried to imagine seeing The Star and I could almost feel the thrill that the Magi must have felt as they came to the place where the star was directly overhead.
How long after Jesus’ birth they arrived is debated, but when they arrived doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they came to worship Him. They came at personal expense and lengthy travel and discomfort, and yet they presented gifts from heartfelt adoration.
I was reminded just this afternoon that many, many folks missed that first Christmas for a variety of reasons. In my mind’s eye, I can see the crowded inn not far from where a Baby was being born in a stable. I can sense the hustle, bustle and noise as family and friends visited, shouting to be heard over the hubbub. And in so doing they missed it. Others might well have seen the star and blew it off or simply admired its beauty and went on their way.
The birth of God’s Son went unnoticed by the majority who missed the meaning, not just the event, as many still do to this day. Christmas is not about Santa Claus and turkey dinner and iPhones. It’s about the humble birth of an extraordinary Child – a Child both fully human and fully divine. It’s about God intervening in human history. As the Apostle says it was “God demonstrating His own love toward us.” That “us” is you and me.
Yes, this season of the year is a hectic one for us all, both on the job and at home. Just like that first Christmas, this year people are nervous about the times and political climate. But it’s my hope that you will be one of those who take time to hear and take to heart the news that
“today in the City of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Wishing you and yours a very blessed and merry Christmas. Take time to make a candle light service this year if you get the chance. We’ll visit again in 2010? No. No way. I can’t be soon to turn 57! 2010… bah, humbug! ;-)
Chaplain Bill firstname.lastname@example.org