“And behold, there came wise men…” So the story goes.
Did they have even the smallest inkling as they set out, of what they would find at the other end of their journey, when their feet would carry them across a threshold and into a simple house where a mother played with her small son–no less dirty or drooly than any other child they’d seen?
But first the wilderness needed to be crossed.
I try and imagine what they must have seen, what vision could have been revealed in the heavens that would kindle the flame of desire in their hearts, until they could do nothing less than pack everything into the saddle bags and turn their faces towards the desert.
What sign did they perceive? What was it about that one star? And how can I also have eyes to see, a heart that beholds the truth shining in the sky above it and understands?
There is much beholding that happens in those early days of the boy Jesus’ life. Angels appear and BEHOLD! Prophecies are fulfilled and BEHOLD! Dreams are dreamt and BEHOLD! Mary sings the world upside down, and BEHOLD!
Barbara Brown Taylor writes it true when she says, “I realised just how little interest I had in defending Christian beliefs. The parts of the Christian story that had drawn me into the church were not the believing parts but the beholding parts. ‘Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy…’ ‘Behold, the lamb of God…’ ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock…’”
I’m trying to practice more beholding in my life. For too long, the focus has been so much on doing that I have exhausted myself arguing to God about why I am worth having on his team and convincing him of all the things I can do.
It’s only recently, as my do-ing life has ground to a halt whilst two wee children collaborate to steal any remaining ounce of productivity from my days, that I’ve begun to hear a voice telling me, “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
My worth is already assured. I am the beloved one. And so I tip my head back again to look at the heavens and ask that I might have eyes to behold the signs in the sky, the sacred things all around me. There is a desert to cross and hard things to be endured for the sake of this newly born Kingdom, but unless I first be still and BEHOLD, that same spark of light will struggle to ignite within me; I will stand on the edge of the wilderness, digging my toes into the sand in fear and reluctance.
It is love alone that starts us on the journey, that sends us out into the desert. The Magi somehow read it painted across the sky: LOVE. And it launched them on a pilgrimage to find the one who was the source of all love. They asked in Jerusalem for the one born king of the Jews, making it sound like a diplomatic mission. But if they knew the prophecies then they knew the God who spoke them too, the God who says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” It was that kindness and the knowledge of their belovedness that drew them from their homes in the East to a strange land far away, to bow before a poor carpenter’s son in Bethlehem.
Oh, let this be the year I have eyes to SEE what God is doing and may that glimpse of love and glory pull me to my feet and onto the journey of a lifetime. For I do not ever want to stop seeing or stop waking up, as if from a dream, and declaring with Jacob, that “God is in this place—truly. And I didn’t even know it!”
The Magi returned home by a different route. And isn’t that always the way? That once we leave the safety of the world we know, once we let love draw us from our comfort zones and onto the road, we see and experience things that leave us forever changed; we walk a different path. But BEHOLD, God said to Jacob and says to us today; “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.”
We are drawn by love and it is our belovedness that will sustain us no matter what the journey brings, all this coming year.