Matthew 2: 1 – 2
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
“Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.”
These are words that could very well have been on the lips of the wise men on the very first “star trek” as they followed the light in the sky. “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.”
Over the years, many have tried to explain the existence of the star. Was it a divine light placed specifically by God or was it a rare occurrence of Jupiter and Saturn falling into alignment? Was it a comet or a meteor? There are Chinese historical records that indicate that around the time of the birth of Christ there was a “Broom star” in the East. Is that what the wise men saw? “Twinkle, twinkle little star how I wonder what you are.”
There is a time for explanations, indeed. But Christmas is a time for adoration. There are some mysteries about life that are so large, so important, so beautiful that there is no explaining them. They take our breath away. There is only silent awe, with a lump in our throats, and tears welling up in our eyes.
The Bible is silent on the specifics of the star. The Greek word here in the Bible is vague. It simply means a general bright object in the sky. Since the gospel writers are silent about such mysteries, I wonder if they are encouraging us to be silent too. To simply marvel in the mystery. “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.” There is a truth so great it has no words. Such moments we are called to quietly behold. The Christmas story which we conclude today is filled with many “Behold” moments.
“Behold,” says the angel, “Behold, I bring good news of great joy for all people, born to you, this day in the city of David, a Savior, Christ The Lord.” Behold!
Before that, the angel said to Joseph, “Behold, Mary will conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”
An angel visits Mary and begins by sharing the news with, “Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call him Jesus.”
The wise men see a light shining in the sky. Something beyond them was calling to them, and it was a tug in their hearts they had been waiting for all their lives. It was a birth announcement. With stars in their eyes, what was there to say, but “Behold!”
There are mysteries in life that are so big, so important, so beautiful that all we can do is “Behold”.
Like the light shining in the nighttime sky, those “Behold” moments may take place in nature. Reflect on one of those most breathtaking places you have ever visited: Maybe it was a mystic cave, an iridescent waterfall, colorful flora and fauna, snowcapped peaks, a dense lush green forest, a dazzling desert, a serene flowing river, a shimmering seascape, a radiant sunset with dolphins playing in the waves. In such moments, we often find ourselves speechless. All we can do is “Behold” the wonder and majesty of it all. There are no words to adequately describe such experiences.
Sometimes our “behold” moments are much more personal. I would like to share a few of my “behold” moments that may be a gateway to recalling your own personal “behold” moments.
I think about the day I was called into the ministry. I was 15 years old. It was a hot August day. I was sitting on the porch reading a book entitled, Let Go and Let God. As I read the book, I felt this overwhelming sense of God’s immense love and I knew that I was called to share that love with others. The call was irresistible, compelling, gripping. I looked up from the book and the sky was bluer, the grass greener, the birds sang more sweetly than ever. All I could do was “Behold” that moment.
In addition to my call to ministry, I have had a call to motherhood. Always felt the call to be a mother. Finally, after many years of not being a mother (because it didn’t work out for one reason or another), I gave up on the call. At age 45, my brother calls me one day and tells me that his son, my nephew, and his girlfriend, had a baby. They were unable to care for the baby. Daniella, my biological great niece, fell right into my lap. Karen’s lap. The call to motherhood was answered. Like Sarah, who gave birth to her first born at the age of 90, I found myself asking, “Is anything too hard for God?” Karen and I would visit her in the neonatal intensive care unit at Loma Linda University Medical Center. She was there for the first three months of her life. As I cradled her in my arms, I sang to her. One of the the very first songs I sang to her — “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?” Tears filled my eyes, a lump in my throat as I wondered who is this child who has mysteriously fallen into my life? All I could do was “Behold”.
My own mother had been so precious to me. Most important person in my life up until the day she died. As she took her final breath, I sat at her bedside holding her hand. It was a thin space. The veil between this world and the next…so very thin. I was on holy ground. What could I do but “Behold” the moment?
After my mother passed from life to Life, in my intense grief, I wondered what I would do without her love, without her wisdom, without her guidance. Only to discover that I still felt her love – not just in a sentimental way, but at a molecular level. Jesus said to the disciples, “My peace I leave with you.” So, this is what it feels like. Her wisdom, encouragement and compassion continue to guide me. Some moments she feels closer now than when she was on earth.
My mother and I loved attending this church together. I grew up in this church with my mother next to my side. We worshipped in Covenant Hall (before the Sanctuary was built). There are times when I am waiting for the next meeting to begin at night, I walk from the office to the kitchen (to heat up some dinner). I walk through Covenant Hall. And I feel the presence of my mother – protective, warm, peaceful. All I can do is stop, take it in, and “Behold” this most sacred experience.
And in worship here with you…I have had many of those “Behold” moments. Moments of transcendence. Sheer wonder. Radical amazement. Radiant luminosity. A song. A word. A prayer concern. The breaking of the bread. The beauty of the Sanctuary. A cloud passing by. A bird flying by. Candlelight on Christmas Eve. A look of peace upon your faces. It takes my breath away. The Spirit whispers in my ear, “This matters, this is significant, slow down, pay attention. This is a moment to ‘Behold’!”
As we begin a new year, my prayer for us is that we will move more slowly, more intentionally that we may behold moments of divinity. May we be more and more surprised by the mystery of what it means to be human.
As we come to this table, we meet one who was continually aware that there was always something more than meets the eye. For Jesus, a person was never just a person, an event never just an event, a meal never just a meal. But the Sacred permeating, indeed flooding, the world with light and love. In a holy moment of mystery in which all the disciples could do was but behold, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it…