“Did you see it?”
I texted my friend Ruth Ann about the “Christmas Star,” the greatly anticipated alignment of Jupiter and Saturn in the winter solstice sky. Some called it the “Bethlehem Star,” speculating that a similar planetary conjunction formed the famous star that led three kings on a quest to worship a newborn King. I grew up singing the praises of that spectacular star: “Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright…”
Ruth Ann’s response reflected my own.
“I guess! I’m sorry to say I was underwhelmed by what I saw. From what I had seen & read they built it up to something more grandiose…”
We expected this star to look more like the ones on the front of our Christmas cards.
Instead, we were left unimpressed and underwhelmed.
I wondered what else about the Christmas story I had inflated in my childhood imagination. Other than an angelic chorus which disrupted the shepherds’ silent night, there was really nothing else that remarkable about the birth of Jesus. No special effects. Nothing supernatural.
In fact, what was most extraordinary about His advent was its ordinariness.
Nothing to see here, but an inconspicuous teen, weary from travel and teary from travail. A blotchy newborn face, a misshapen crown. Nothing to hear but stable animals, agitated by an infant’s incessant wails.
(“The little Lord Jesus no crying He makes…”? Maybe we need to rethink those lyrics, too.)
The scene was understatedly earthy. Overwhelmingly ordinary.
Something magnificent and other-worldly had just occurred.
A Heavenly Invasion.
A Heroic Intervention.
A Hopeful Incarnation.
All held in the awkward arms of a first-time father who probably still had acne.
(I mean no disrespect. I’m just trying to bring a little grit to the Christmas carol glam.)
And still, He comes.
Humbly. Quietly. Nothing grandiose or self-promoting.
Just very real, and very present.
How often do we miss His glory, as we chase shinier objects? Seeking Spielberg-like effects, we stroll right past the wonder of a God who is content to simply be “with us.”
Immanuel. The Miracle, lying in a manger.
Expectation usually leads to dissatisfaction. Don’t let your imagination cause you to miss His invitation.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29, NIV)
Your King calls. Beckoning, like a glinting star on the southern horizon.