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To wonder at the star
Dec. 21, 2011 - Christ Jesus, our King, was announced to all creation by a star rising in the eastern sky.
The Magi saw it—they had been waiting and watching. Finally they saw the announcement that God was with us—Emmanuel—incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ.
I sometimes wonder why the Magi were watching the sky in the first place. What were they watching for? I would like to believe that the Magi watched the sky for the same reason I do—to stand in awe at the splendor and majesty of our God.
The sky in Colorado is broad and clear. Even in the heart of Denver, where I live, I can glance out the window at an incredible expanse of sky and mountains and stars. Recently I was awestruck with the beauty of the full moon over Denver. In our archdiocese, the splendor of God’s creativity, love and goodness is everywhere for us to behold.
“To look up at the stars,” said the ancient philosophers, “is to become lovers of wisdom.”
We seem to spend time during Christmas “beholding the stars.” We’re more aware of God’s love for his people. We rejoice together at the Incarnation. For children especially, but for all of us really, Christmas is a time of wonder, of awe and of joyful curiosity.
We ought to cultivate a sense of wonder all the time, not just this time of the year. In our families, we should seek a sense of awe about the universe. By reading Scripture together, by praying together and by taking time to look up at the stars, God will transform us into lovers of wisdom. And as we become truly wise, like the Magi, we shall see more clearly the work of God in the world around us.
It is easy to disregard the miraculous. We’re often too busy to recognize miracles. When we do encounter miracles, our hyper-rationality encourages us to find some other explanation for God’s work in our lives. We lose sight of the miracle of our family’s love. We forget the ways we have been transformed by God’s grace throughout our lives. We take for granted the miracle of the Eucharist—that Christ becomes present to us in the form of bread and wine.
At Christmas, we seem to suspend our hyper-rationality for a while. There is a collective hope that the miraculous will somehow break through. We talk about “Christmas miracles” for a reason—Christmas is a miracle, and perhaps by grace, we’re more disposed at Christmas to see the presence of God.
This Christmas let’s commit to live our lives with a greater sense of wonder. After the Nativity set and the tree and the lights have all gone away—hopefully not until the solemnity of Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas—let’s keep looking for the Christ Child. Let’s keep looking to the stars. Let’s be in awe at the miracle of God’s great love for us.
I pray the Lord will bless your families this Christmas. I will remember each of you in my prayers and in the Mass on Christmas Day. I pray you will encounter Jesus Christ, and come to know his love. I leave you with my blessing and with a Christmas poem, “Moonless darkness stands between,” by Father Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.:
Moonless darkness stands between.
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
From the self that I have been.
Now beginning, and alway:
Bishop James D. Conley is apostolic administrator of the Denver Archdiocese.
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