As we approach Christmas, I like to think of all the people who were approaching the stable at Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. For me, they’re a microcosm of all people who, whether they know it or not, are seeking Christ and who are being called by him.
Some in the Christmas story followed the star, but Mary and Joseph knew where they were going. They were simply travelling towards the town, obeying a secular authority to be counted in the census: the circumstances of their lives dictated their journey. But in a sense they were also travelling towards the unknown: would there be a place for them to stay in Bethlelem? Surely God would provide.
The shepherds – poor, local, presumably Jewish – were just going about their business: keeping watch over their flocks at night, as St. Luke tells us. After the birth of Jesus, they begin their journey to the stable, following the star, where they discover One whom they hadn’t even dreamed of searching for a day earlier.
And finally, the Magi, those mysterious “Wise Men” who are the opposite of the shepherds: they come from a long way away, are Gentiles, and are evidently well-to-do, if they can afford to travel such a distance and offer such gifts as gold, frankincense and myrrh. Look at them in this brilliant stained glass window from Canterbury. They’re definitely not using Mapquest! But by following this star, and evading the wicked King Herod, they arrive at their destination. I wonder if they were a little shocked at first to find this poor family, temporarily housed in a stable. God is a God of surprises!
May our hearts always be fixed on Christ, whatever path we’re on in life!