As we gather today, some 55 million people are inching their way home, some through horrific weather, just in time for Cyber Monday sales.
Today happens to coincide with one of the busiest travel days of the Christian year. Only our travel doesn’t’ require tickets and gas and lead to long lines and traffic jams. Our travel is not recorded in miles but in a shift of attitude in the heart. Today is our first Sunday of Advent, preparing us for Christmas. The next four weeks will lead us on a journey of dark, uncharted territory as we cross the rocky terrain of our souls. The wilderness places and the desert places. The well-traveled places and happy places. Through the Advent guides of hope, peace joy and love we embrace promise and repentance, expectations and welcome. We are on a journey to Bethlehem to a stable where the Christ Child waits to be born anew in our hearts.
Each week through Advent we will be assisted by different aspects of the Christmas story. We will hear from the stars, the angels, the shepherds and creatures. All of them will teach us, help us toward our destination. Today we hear from the Bethlehem star, the star famous for guiding the Magi to Bethlehem. A star famous for setting us off on our journey these next four weeks.
One of the greatest tragedies of modern life is that we have cut ourselves off from the stars. Normally at night about 2,500 individual stars are visible to the human eye without using any special equipment. But because of light pollution-the artificial light we create to move around at night—we actually see just 200 to 300 from today’s suburbs, and fewer than a dozen from a typical city. It is said only one in three Americans can see our own galaxy, the dazzling Milky Way, with the naked eye. Those lucky ones live far away from the lights of big cities, office buildings and shopping malls.
So many stars in so many galaxies. Astronomers estimate there are about 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way alone and 70 sextillion (that’s 7 followed by 22 zeros) stars in our universe in over 10,000 galaxies. The speed of light in a vacuum is 186,282 miles per second. There are stars so far away that the light we see today left the star when Jesus was born.
Out of the stars arose myths and legends from all around the world, still powerful today. Stories of bears, Orion and his hunting dogs, eagles and rams scorpions, kings and queens and crowns. And a star, out of 70 sextillion stars, a star, the Bethlehem Star, chosen by God, to light the 800 mile journey to the son of God, the word made flesh, found in a stable in Bethlehem.
Whatever the Star of Bethlehem was, some say a planet, others postulate several stars in conjunction or a super nova we don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the first task in this Advent season is to embrace the same Bethlehem Star that first led magi to Jesus finds us today and leads us too to Jesus.
Jesus would have us first discover our kinship to this amazing star. Jesus put it this way: Let your light so shine so that people will give glory to God in Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, those that follow me shall have the light of life.” So, we too bear this star light, beacons to point the way to goodness and truth. The apostle Paul in one of his letters reminded the Christ followers are to “shine like stars in the universe” (Phil. 2: 14-18). Our light is not the brilliance of the sun on a bright cloudless day, or of thousand florescent lights that can keep a ballpark lit for a night game. Our light is a spiritual light. A light perceived by spirit that shines through our words and actions consistent with God’s will. Paul reminds us that the root of our light is love. So put on the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul directs us, who is our armor of light.
Unlike human-made armor, that seeks to camouflage us into the landscape and make the wearer less visible in dangerous and hostile situations, light forged in the nature of stars, is radically differed. The armor of light keeps darkness and sin out and shields us with love and truth. Light’s armor enables us to face both inner and outer darkness and guides us to find hope, to find peace, to find love and joy to find Jesus, in midst of the busy, hectic and materialistic holiday season, by following the same journey as the Bethlehem star.
This first week of Advent we are called to repent, straighten our paths, in order to rediscover the light within, our star heritage, to realize that our story, like Jesus, is written in light. Our story is star stuff in our blood and bones – for truth of the matter is, according to astronomer Carl Sagan, 93% of the mass of our bodies is star matter. So, we are points of light – Christ matter – to the galaxy of nations on our own earth. To some people, we are the only starlight, the only Bethlehem star pointing them to Christ, that they will ever see. For some people our light is the only light they will find to lead them to good news. Don’t be afraid to shine. To Be comforted. To renew our ability to love. To put on the Lord Jesus Christ. To live honorably in the light. To adorn the armor of light, the spirit of Christ.
A native American tale tells of a hunting party that roamed so far from home that it became lost. While holding a council to decided what to doa little being, like a child, appeared and said she would guide them. After days of traveling through unfamiliar lands the hunting party finally met the chief of the little people. He pointed to the North Star and told the hunters to follow its light which would guide them back to their own village. It did- and it continued to guide the Iroquois on their nighttime journeys from then on. In this world of ours it is easy to become lost. Our journeys take so can detours, twists and turns. But as the story goes there is help. Today we are pointed to the Bethlehem star, covered in an armor of light, we will find our way to Jesus, no matter where we are.
So let us prepare for our Advent journey. If we cannot gaze outside and take in the grandeur of the night sky – let us recall that there is a star o hope that rises in our hearts, faithfully, truthfully, calling us home. It calls us to shine out, with all goodness and love. It reminds us, we are kin to the Bethlehem star that will guide us safely and surely until we reach the holy newborn, Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.