Our Own Christmas Star
by Rev. B. David Holm
Of all the stories in the Word, the Christmas story stands out as a favorite of all people. We never grow tired of it. Each year we turn to the Word when Christmas draws near, eager to hear once more about the birth of the Lord, about Mary and Joseph, about the shepherds and the angels, and about the wise men who followed the star. When we read or hear those things we become happy at the thought of the Lord being born into the world as a little baby, and we are filled with quiet joy and peace.
It is not strange that we feel this happiness, for the Lord's birth was the most important and holy thing that had ever happened in the world. It is because of this that we feel a spirit of peace and joy when we read about His birth at Christmas time. This is what makes Christmas such a joyful time of the year. The holiness of the Lord's birth enters into us.
The same is true of all the things we learn about the Lord. No matter what time of year it is, we can be filled with happiness and peace when we learn about Him. But this can happen only if we are really interested and want to learn about Him; and we should want to learn about the Lord more than anything else, for nothing else is as important. We are not able to love the Lord truly unless we have learned about Him; and the more we know about Him, the more we are able to love and serve Him..
That is why no one can be called really wise unless he knows a great deal about the Lord. Every good person wants to become wise, for he wants his love of the Lord to grow stronger and stronger. If we want to become wise, then, we must try to gain as thorough a knowledge of the Lord as we can. This is why the wise men of the Christmas story were called "wise men." For they had a knowledge of the Lord and knew that He would be born into the world; and because they loved the Lord, and wanted to worship Him and bring Him gifts, they were led to the Lord when He was born - were led to Him by a star.
This part of the Christmas story about the wise men is very important, for it shows us how we, too, can be led to the Lord, if we become wise by learning about Him. You probably remember the story well: how, when the Lord was born, a new and wonderful star appeared to certain wise men who lived in a land to the east of Canaan. These wise men knew that the Lord was to be born because many years before He came into the world He had promised that He would come and save men. The Jews were not the only people who had been given this promise; it had been given also to the people to the east of Canaan, who were sometimes called the "sons of the east," and who had been given it through their prophets.
We know that this is true because Balaam was one of these sons of the east, and he had prophesied that the Lord would be born. You remember that, long before the Lord came, Balaam was sent for to curse the children of Israel. But the Lord would not allow Balaam to do this. Instead, he was told to bless them. And part of Balaam's blessing was a promise that the Lord would be born, for he said: "I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh: there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel" (Numbers 24: 17). It was from this prophecy, and others like it, that the sons of the east knew that some day the Lord would be born. They did not know exactly when He would come, but they knew that when He did a new star would be seen; for Balaam had said: "There shall come a star out of Jacob."
They guarded this knowledge of the Lord's coming, and handed it on to their children. No doubt they looked up into the sky at night many times to look for the new star. And finally, one night, hundreds of years after Balaam had told about the star, certain of these wise men of the east looked up and saw it. We can imagine how they rejoiced! For the Lord for whom they had waited so long had been born at last.
This star was most likely seen by them on the very night that the Lord was born. But their country was hundreds of miles away from Bethlehem, and they had to make a long journey across the desert, probably on camels, before they could come to the Lord. This journey would take several weeks. When they reached the land of Canaan, they went first to the city of Jerusalem and asked, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" (Matthew 2: 2), for they did not know exactly where the Lord had been born.
After they had been told that the Lord had said He would be born in Bethlehem, the wise men left Jerusalem. Once again they saw the star, and they followed it as it moved toward Bethlehem, where it stopped and stood over the house where the Lord now was. The wise men went into the house; and when they saw the Lord, who was now several weeks old, they fell down and worshiped Him, and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Now this is much more than just a lovely story which we enjoy at Christmas time. As with everything else in the Word, we are given this story that we may live it and so become better; for we, too, can be like the wise men, and can be led to the Lord by a star. But before we can understand how we may do this, we must know why a star should be the sign of the Lord's birth to the wise men.
First, this was a spiritual star, for no natural star could have led the wise men to Bethlehem and stood over the house in which the Lord was. This means that the spiritual eyes of the wise men were opened so that they could see the star, and that could be done because they knew that the Lord would be born, and wanted Him to come more than anything else because they loved Him. We can see this if we realize that whenever we enjoy learning something, a spiritual light shines in our minds and we can see the thing clearly. This light in our minds is just like a star because it lightens our darkness, and the more we want to learn, the brighter the light becomes. Now if we really want to learn about the Lord and His teachings then the things that we learn shine as a very bright and wonderful star in our minds. For what we learn about Him is the most important of all things.
If we allow what we have learned about the Lord to lead us, we will be just like the wise men who began to follow the star on that first Christmas night. And we will learn more and more until at last, when we are old enough, what we have learned about the Lord will lead us to where all truth comes from - to the Word. It is in the Word that we will really learn to know the Lord. If we follow its teachings in our lives we will come into a greater and greater love of them. And these teachings will lead us to the Lord Himself, for they will show us how to love Him and to make room for Him that He may dwell with us. If we love and live them, the teachings of the Word lead us to the true worship of the Lord; even as the wise men, when they had left Jerusalem, were led by the star to Bethlehem where they found the Lord and worshiped Him.
This is the meaning of the story of the wise men and the star they followed. Let us try to remember this when on Christmas morning we gather round the representation. Let us look at the wise men and the star, and remember that if we earnestly follow all the things we have learned about the Lord we will become truly wise. And we will be led to the Lord - led to Him by the star of our knowledge. If we try to remember this, and to learn more about the Lord each day, the story of the wise men and the star will always be in our minds and hearts.
-New Church Life 1955;75:540-542