Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
LET US GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief Priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:
‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the Child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. Matthew 2:1-10
Good morning Prayer Team!
In just about every Nativity scene, the Magi are depicted wearing crowns and regal garments, looking their best as they come to worship Christ the Lord. Most Nativity scenes, however, are inaccurate on two counts. First, the Magi were not present on the night of the Nativity. It took them two years to reach Christ. This is why in Matthew’s account, the Magi come to a house, not a cave, and they see the “child” and not the “babe lying in a manger.” Second, it is doubtful that the Magi looked very regal after their two year journey. They would have been tired, their clothes and their bodies would have shown wear and tear from the long journey.
However, the hearts of the Magi were very grateful. Something moved in the hearts of these men, to leave the familiarity and home and country and to follow a star, over “field and fountain, moor and mountain,” (We Three Kings Christmas Carol) not knowing where it would lead them. I can imagine that following a star must have been something they could only do in the night, as the stars are not out during the day. So imagine sleeping during the day and traveling during the night for two years, battling the cold of the night and the dangerous nocturnal animals one most certainly would have encountered. It would be hard to do that with a bitter heart. Though I imagine at times, the Magi must have had confused, doubt-filled and tired hearts.
The Gospel passage tells us, however, that when they saw the star, they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Their hearts will filled with warmth, happiness and reassurance, than indeed this journey was leading somewhere special. And that was enough to keep them going, for two, long years.
When I reflect on the story of the Nativity, it is the Magi that I relate the most to. When I see the “star” shining brightly, I follow with joy. Sometimes I get frustrated, sometimes I even have doubts about where the journey going and what will I find when I get there. But most of the time, when I see the star, I feel joyful.
Another challenge is that there are times in my life when I do not see the star. Like the Magi would not have been able to see the star during the day, there are times in my life when I cannot see the star. When secular things are “shining” in my life, or when the mood of my mind is “overcast,” it is hard to see the light of the star and keep following. Like the Magi, I must look for the star, and during the periods it is shining, I need to make the most and best progress in my journey of faith.
I haven’t yet completed my journey. I do not know how much farther I have to go. And I do not know how much deeper I am supposed to become in my faith. What I do know is that TODAY is another day in the journey. The star will shine brightly at some point today, as it does every day. The challenge is for me to follow it, to keep my eye on it, and to rejoice in it.
The grateful heart rejoices over the star—even though the grateful heart cannot see the end of the journey, it continues on with joy and thanksgiving, stopping to enjoy the journey and to help others along the way. The Magi were probably not magnificent in their appearance when they finally made it to see Christ but their hearts were filled with joy. However difficult your journey of life may be, always keep your eye on the path (the star) which leads to Christ.
Lord, thank You that I have lived another year to see another Christmas. Thank You for the many blessings I have received this year (list some of them). Help me to keep my focus on You, especially on days where the world feels dark and life gets difficult. Show me the star, especially in my difficult moments. Guide me along Your path, and brighten my heart to glorify You and rejoice in the path that You have laid before me. Amen.
Rejoice exceedingly in the journey to Christ!
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