There is no doubt that 2016 has been tough. The trials and difficulties we faced are well documented by news sources and social media. From the mass extermination of human life in Aleppo to the uncertainly and turmoil generated from the Presidential Election, people are hurting. They are confused and stressed.
For many, it seems that their lives are over. The dreams for which they once aspired seem as distant as Mars. I am no stranger to troubles this year. My family and I, like many of you, experienced trials. The loss of a loved one. Struggles related to job and financial concerns. Uncertainty in future aspirations. Depression and anxiety. Additionally, we witnessed our “framily” (friends that are like siblings to us) deal with harsh situations. Cancer. Marriage troubles. Loss of a job.
This year, doubt clouds the minds of many Christians. Though they believe in God, attend church, read their bibles, and/or pray, they don’t sense the hope that once filled their hearts. To them, God seems distant and not concerned about their hurts or needs. They call out to God, but hear silence in return.
Maybe you can identify with the struggles of 2016. Whether you have experienced trial and hurt this year, you have at one point in time. Or, you will. Of this I am certain. But no matter how difficult the times, God is still with us. Being a Christian does not mean that everything will be perfect, but it does mean that in all things we have a source for hope, peace, and joy. God never said life would be easy. And whoever said “God will never give you more than you can handle” apparently never read the Bible.
For centuries, we’ve looked to the stars as symbols of our dreams. Dreams to marry, have children, be successful in our chosen careers. Dreams to buy a home or to travel the world. Whatever your dream is, my guess it is what you are most passionate about and believe it will bring you happiness.
The people of Israel were no different. They dreamed of the day that their Messiah would come and deliver them. The King of Kings would arrive and take his rightful place, ruling over all nations. What they did not expect was their king to be born as a baby. Their dream did not come as expected.
There is a portion of Jesus’s birth story that we overlook. At least, I have until a pastor and friend of mine spoke about this just a few weeks ago. It is part of the story of the Magi — the Wisemen — and how they found the new born king.
The Magi traveled from the east, or, more literally from the Greek, “from the rising sun.” While debate may rage on where they came from or how many truly traveled in one accord, we do understand that they were scholars. The term “magi” in Matthew is used in the Greek magos, which refers to teachers and astrologers. These men knew the night sky. There is no doubt that seeing the star in the west that rested above Jesus would be noticed by these wise men. It was out of place, new to their sight. Thus, they followed it, and it took them to Jerusalem. We all know this part of the story well.
It is what comes next that we overlook. Matthew 2:2-3 states the following:
2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him.
There are two key pieces in these verses that I find applicable to us in 2016. First, the star — the light in the sky the lead the Magi to this place — disappeared for a time. After a long journey, which may have been difficult due to distance and terrain, the beacon they followed was gone. No warning. No information. No sign of anything they did wrong or if they were in the right place or not. Progress to their goal was impeded.
Second, the disappearance of the star did not stop them from working to find the newborn King of the Jews. They asked questions and sought answers. Maybe they went door-to-door, but they actively worked to find their way. Word of their inquiry reached the throne room of King Herod, but it is not stated that the Magi themselves appeared in his court until he called for them. They searched and asked. Herod heard.
This year, many of us saw our goal, our dream to achieve something we are passionate about, disappear. Like the star that led the Magi to Jerusalem, our goal was in sight, and we followed the path in order to reach the place we desired. One day, we got up and looked for the star, and it was gone. Nothing. No sight of anything to follow. We were lost in an unfamiliar place, confused and frustrated. Our dream job, a relationship, a child...gone. We were in the dark.
Here, we have two options. Quit and push aside the passions and desires of our heart, those that God placed in us. Or, we can do as the Magi and work. We can ask questions of friends, gather information from those with knowledge, and continue to find our way. The former is easier than the latter, but the reward is more than we can imagine.
As for the Magi, after they meet with King Herod, they continued on their journey. They may have been delayed by days, weeks, or years, but the goal to find Jesus was still their priority. At last, the star reappeared! Their beacon returned and they followed it all the way to the place where the child was. Hope returned, and their dream was now reality.
There is nothing more we can do about 2016. The blessings and trials, successes and hardships we faced this year are now gone. But hope is on the horizon. A new year often means newness is our resolve and a refreshing of our hope. If the light of your star disappeared in 2016, keep looking to the sky for its return. Work to find your way. Let your heart be filled with the hope that God provides, and let your eyes be fixed on the path God has given you. The star can reappear!