Each night they looked at the sky, gazing at stars, hoping for a sign. Why would they be looking? Why do any of us look? During these darkest days of the year, light is fleeting. During dark times in our lives, light can be almost painful. Sometimes dark is comfortable because light shows the unknown, something we fear. But then again, on a dark and stormy night or a foggy morning, a light can be a life-saver, hope made visible. And light is always stronger than darkness—no matter how small the light, it can’t be made darker just because of surrounding darkness. A dark room doesn’t put the candle out—in fact, the darker the room, the brighter the candle appears. The same with stars—the darker it is, the brighter the stars appear.
One night, there was a new light. What makes the wise men wise is that they knew this new light was not the thing they were looking for—it was a map, a guidepost, a beacon. Following the star would guide them to perfect light, and so they went. The candles on the Advent wreath are not the light of the world, they’re a symbol of that light. The star the wise men followed was not the light, it was the guide to the light. The true splendor and glory were to be found in a child, a helpless wonder in a crib who was joy and peace and light for all the world.
Couldn’t we use a star? Where is our guide to the light? Where is the beacon shining in the night? How will we know our way to the manger when we’re looking for the true light of the world, the deeper meaning of God’s words “let there be light”?
I suspect each of us could answer this question differently. Some might say we no longer need a star, now that the revelation of God’s light has been given to us already. Some might say the symbols of our faith—the cross, the table, the baptismal font—are the sign that points the way. Some might say the story of God’s work in the world, of God’s interaction with people, the story of Scripture, is the guiding star. And all of those are true and good and right.
And yet I wonder…if we might be the star? We, the community of God’s people, the body of Christ, the gathering of those who’ve heard the calling. Could we be the star, the candle that gives off even a feeble light, a sign that shows the way? I know the church has often gotten things wrong, done horrible deeds, perpetuated hate and darkness rather than love and light. But I still wonder—are we the beacon that points to the light of the world? And is that where our beacon points? Are we a symbol of hope, a guide to the perfect light? Is it possible that we are the ones we’ve been waiting and looking for?