It was a proud papa moment. Our two older kids performed in their elementary Christmas program last week, and I was moved. Sure, I was proud of our preschooler for enduring a 45-minute program with a relative degree of poise and concentration. And it was great to see our 2nd grader nail her few lines acting as one of the shepherds seeking the Messiah in the manger. But I was most impressed by a particular song that moved me with a such a sense of awe and hope that my hand reached for my heart in gratitude to God.
Depicting the journey of the magi following the star as a journey of faith through the dark, the song's chorus rings:
Look, look, look for the light
Shining in the dark, dark, darkest of nights.
When your way is unclear, there's no need to fear.
Just look, look, look for the light. ("Arrest These Merry Gentlemen")
As I took in the message of that song, I chain of thoughts sparked the realization that the journey of these worshipers from the East reflects the spiritual journey many of us find ourselves on -- recognizing God’s revelation, responding not just in intellect but in action to that revelation, longing to give our best to the King who has come and will come again.
That song is still ringing in my ears (especially because the kids' practice CD is still in our van's disc changer!) And the experience of the wise men is still rattling around in my mind. Although the message of the magi is multi-faceted, one reality hits home in a new way this Christmas: These wise men made their best progress at night.
Now, that may seem like mere common sense, but sometimes it's the most elementary things that carry the most significance. The magi's forward progress was completely dependent upon the visibility of the star they had seen all the way from "the East" (Mt. 2:2). Seeing the Star not only started their journey but brought it to completion as well.
If they couldn't see the star, they couldn't see their next steps.
This is why the wise men were filled with exceedingly great joy (Mt. 2:10) at the vision of the star well into their journey, not just at its onset. If their journey by starlight is a parallel to our spiritual walk, then it's only as we see Jesus, the Light of the World, that have any hope of moving forward in faith, not just at the onset but all the way through to the finish line. Forward progress depends upon keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the true Morning Star that rises in our hearts (2 Pet. 1:19).
But circle back to that very elementary observation again. The wise men made their best progress at night because that kind of starlight is most visible at night. I'll admit, I'm not sure how far to take this parallel to our spiritual experience, but could it be that that some of our best spiritual progress is made in the darkest of nights? It's in the dark seasons of our lives that our way seems unclear, but (as that song sings) there's no need to fear. That's when the light of God's presence can be seen with greatest clarity.
Some of us may be facing some dark, chilly nights in our lives. Christmas itself may be very blue and lonely, bringing up things from the past that you'd rather keep in the past. The whirlwind of everyday life or the insecurity of transition or loss may have you reeling this Christmas. Whatever darkness may be settling in around you, I truly believe we can look for the light not just in spite of the darkness but because of this darkness. May we rise up knowing full well that the light of God's presence can be seen even when it's dark. May you and I rejoice with exceedingly great joy as those wise men of old because we can see the Star this season.
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you. Isaiah 60:1-2, NKJV