By Rev. Neil Lambert
Whatever it was that brought the wise men searching for the new king or Messiah, whether it was a super nova, alignment of planets, Halley’s comet or a supernatural event, we do not know. However, we do know that these wise men went to the wrong place! (Only by about 6 miles…)
You could forgive them for thinking that the new King of the Jews would be found at the famous capital of Judea, Jerusalem – just as you would expect to find a new king of Great Britain in London, not Barking. But their ancient texts had an important bit missing: “And you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.” (Micah 5:2)”. So, having had this pointed out to them by King Herod’s own “wise men”, they set off for Bethlehem, unaware that they had just alerted King Herod to the birth of the New King whose arrival he feared. Carnage ensues… Power seems always to protect itself at any cost…so Herod orders the killing of all the baby boys aged 2 and under. Joseph is warned in a dream to escape to Egypt with Mary and the baby Jesus, until Herod is dead. So, “gentle Jesus meek and mild” becomes a political refugee, crossing the Nile in a small boat to safety in Egypt.
Meanwhile, the wise men, having also been warned in a dream, go home having played their part, given their gifts, and worshipped at the feet of the Saviour Jesus. I wonder if they felt like gate-crashers at a party in a foreign land? Whatever they felt, they were made welcome and included by the Holy Family. I wonder how often in future years they looked up at the night sky and remembered the shining light that prompted them to search for Jesus the Messiah?
That light, the Bethlehem Star, is the inspiration for the centrepiece of the new Communion Table at St Mary’s Ash Vale made by our friend Dan: a beautiful 12-sided table with a big Bethlehem Star right in the middle (see the picture by Dan Austin, the craftsman who made the table, showing all the different woods that it is made from.
Each Sunday, as we celebrate our Communion together at church, we remember not only that Jesus died and rose from the dead for us, but that to do this, he also came to live as one of us. I hope that over the Christmas season you will have the opportunity to come and see it for yourself.
The Bethlehem Star is still pointing to Jesus, and it is still an invitation to a grand party where you are more than welcome!