1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 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.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
9 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. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
A legend tells that the Magi were three different ages. Gaspar was a young man, Balthazar in his middle years, and Melchior a senior citizen. When they approached the cave in Bethlehem, they first went in one at a time. Melchior found an old man like himself. They spoke together of memory and gratitude. The middle-aged Balthazar encountered a teacher of his own years. They spoke passionately of leadership and responsibility. When Gaspar entered, a young prophet met him with words of reform and promise. The three met outside the cave and marveled at how each had gone in to see a newborn child, but each had met someone of his own years. How would Jesus meet you where you are in life? What conversation might you have?
Sometimes all the light can get to be a bit much this time of year. Blinking lights, bubble lights, icicle lights, blue-light specials. What about those of us who like the dark sometimes? You know, who like to sit outside at night, who relish sitting in a dim bar sharing a drink with a friend, who appreciate a snuggle with the lights off?
For those of us living in modern industrialized societies, where everything is spotlighted or fluoresced to within an inch of its life, dimness can be hard to come by.
God shined bright when she entered the world…but it couldn't have happened without the holy darkness of Mary's womb. Without the darkness behind the closed eyelids of a laboring woman. Without the darkness of the space between a baby's skin and swaddle.
The Wise Men would never have been able to see that star if they'd been standing in the parking lot of a 24-hour Wal-Mart.
So tonight, in honor of the good darkness, the holy darkness, spend some time with the lights off for once. Put on some good music, or make some music of your own. Look out at the world, or just at the backs of your eyelids. Pray to be protected and nourished and formed by the God that swept over the face of the waters before there was light. Pray for the darkness to become like the Womb that bore the world. Pray for gestation. Pray for birth.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as Christ did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
Trusting that he will make all things right if I surrender to his will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with him forever in the next. Amen.