I have always been a star gazer. As a child I loved to to visit the planetarium and soon learned to identify the most prominent stars in the night sky. On our frequent family camping trips I loved to gaze up at the awe inspiring expanse of the milky way, and imagine myself navigating by the stars.
I particularly loved the Southern Cross, which dominates the Australian flag. It is the first constellation of stars that every Australian child learns to recognize. I not only learned to identify it, I also learned to use it to find my direction if I got lost.
Then I moved to the northern hemisphere and the stars I relied on were no longer visible. I kept looking for them though and it was quite a while before I admitted that I needed to reorient myself and learn to follow new stars.
The magi too were stargazers and had probably been watching the stars in their sky for many years. Then suddenly a new star appeared. I wonder how long it took them to realize they needed to ignore all the other familiar stars and accept the radical challenge of following it. Did they know it would change their lives completely?
Even then they needed help to reach the right destination. Did they stop in Jerusalem because they were lost? Perhaps they were afraid that they had made this long journey for nothing. Or maybe they panicked because even though the star gave them direction it did not give them a destination.
What fascinates me is that those they asked for direction – Herod and the religious leaders in Jerusalem knew the right destination but they still did not follow. In fact quite the reverse. Perhaps they knew that the messiah would ask them to make radical changes to their lives and they just were not ready for that.
How often do we miss what God wants to accomplish in and through us because we are not willing to let go of the familiar and the comfortable to follow? Richard Middleton in his inspirational book A New Heaven and A New Earth, says:
the good news of the kingdom can be grasped only through a radical challenge that requires a fundamental reorientation of life. (263).
So as we move into Epiphany how willing are we to accept the radical challenge the gospel calls us to? How willing are we to reorient our lives around God’s ultimate purpose in the incarnation of Christ:
For in him (Christ) all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (Col 1:19-20)
God’s restorative work is holistic, it embraces not just our inner transformation and reconciliation to God but restoration of creation, reconciliation and the making of peace wherever there is enmity, healing wherever there is brokenness and renewal wherever the image of God is distorted.
As you reflect on what I have written here you might like to meditate on this Fijian prayer I came across several years ago. The Fijians too used the southern cross for guidance in far more perilous conditions than I will ever know, maybe a little like the magi, they set out on journeys for which they knew the direction but not the destination.
We ask you dear God that
Just as the great Southern cross
Guides our people as they sail over the Pacific at night
So may the cross of Jesus Christ
Lead us through the night and guide us safely into a new day.
How willing are we to follow the star that leads to where the Christ child is being incarnated in our midst and work for this reconciliation, restoration, redemption and renewal? How willing are we to reorient our lives so that this becomes our motivation and purpose?