Darkness holds us in our season of grief. This dark time of the soul often finds us stumbling through the long nights into the weary morning hours. Left foot, right foot. Weeks ago, when I began this journey to Bethlehem, I wasn't sure I'd make it. What I was sure about, though was that I couldn't stay where I was. My grief navigated the hours of my days, and my spirit knew that this wasn't, this couldn't be all there was. I needed to seek out something else to guide and direct me.
"For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides," the Little Prince reminds us. Walking with a candle or a flashlight keeps us looking down, making sure that we don't stumble. Following a star, keeps our heads up. When we are following a star we recognize that something has shifted. Something is not the same. Instead of being afraid of falling, we find ourselves looking out and beyond what what we see now. Following a star takes us toward what is on up ahead.
Many of us have grown up hearing the story of the Christmas star from the gospel of Mathew. This ageless story of the three wise souls who traveled from afar seeking what was not yet here. We grew up hearing that they left what was familiar and set out not knowing what or how, only knowing that they needed to make the journey. Left foot, right foot. Stories are particular and universal, both. Stories live in the past and sometimes help us name and frame what is our story now. We are told that they had no map, instead they set out following a star, up and out in the distance. Seeking to pay homage to the newborn who would bring peace, they were led.
Likewise, we, too have set out seeking something new to be born in our hearts. Hope. Mercy. Forgiveness. Restoration. Love. All along the way our patterns, our inclinations, our stepping-outs and stepping right-back-ins - - all of these responses have mattered. Times when we were intentional to take one step and the next. Times when we got lost or maybe just felt caught up in something else and meandered for a time. This Advent journey, this tender time we've spent traveling has quite literally gotten us from there to here. What might be helpful sometime is to name or savor or paint or sing where "there" was and where "here" is now. This season has reminded us that it matters to pay attention and to mark our journeys from darkness to light.
It matters that we didn't stop. It matters that we didn't give up or give in. It matters that somehow even when, especially when we felt overwhelmed and disheartened, we continued to follow what was just on up ahead. Left foot, right foot. It matters that we continued to look up and have the courage to continue to take the next step. It matters.
Tonight there will be gatherings small and great to listen again to the story of a baby being born in a stable. Tonight, there will be carols sung and candles will be lit. Tonight is the night to come in from the cold. This night is for each weary pilgrim who somehow found the strength and courage to keep following Bethlehem's star. Whether or not you saw the star out your door out on the horizon or knew of its presence in your heart, the star has been your place of holding on to hope. Looking up beyond what has been so desperately painful, and believing that a star will guide us on and through into what will be next.