Near the top of a high mountain in a remote country sat an ancient monastery built centuries ago. The monks living, working and praying there were seldom seen by the village people in the valley below, but they were held in very high esteem. One day, one of these monks made the arduous trip down the mountainside to the village to purchase needed medical supplies. An excited villager, surprised to finally meet one of these holy men, said to him, “Father, surely yours is the best of all lives, living so close to God up in the clouds on the mountain! Tell me, what do you do up there?” After a long and thoughtful pause, the monk replied, “Well, I'll tell you what we do: we fall down...and then we get up. Then we fall down again, and we get up. We keep falling, but with God's help, we keep getting back up!”
The three wise men in today's Gospel would have clearly understood the monk's words. These wise men knew about mistakes. They made a number of them! First, note that it's already way past Christmas before they showed up. They arrived late, and it may well be their fault. They made a wrong turn. After spotting that brilliant star in the sky, a star no one else paid attention to, and after following that star across many lands, these wise men couldn't imagine a king being born in the little god-forsaken town of Bethlehem. No, a true king would be born in a great city like Jerusalem! So they deserted their star and went to Jerusalem. They got derailed and distracted by their own expectations and by the lights of the big city and lost their way.
The reason we call them “wise” men is not that they went directly to Bethlehem and got their on time. They didn't! We call them “wise” because they didn't give up their search for Jesus after they got lost. They asked for help, though they were unaware of the political situation with Herod in Jerusalem, They then focused their eyes back on the brilliant star, corrected their course and found the infant king in the arms of his mother Mary.
The wise men are good models for us as we begin this new year 2015 to continue our search to discover Jesus in our lives. All of us, even the younger of us in this Chapel, have made our fair share of wrong turns and mistiming. We've wasted a lot of time on dead-end roads. There have been times we've ignored our star of faith, the star that guides us on our journey. We have been distracted by a lot of stuff the world offers us.
But none of our mistakes surprises our Loving God. God, our Creator, knows we are slow learners. God understands that lessons often have to be repeated before they are learned. Yet all God asks of us is that we do what the monks did:. We continue to get up. We do what the three wise men did: We refocus on our star. That star is the star of our Christian faith. Trust the star! It will not fail us. If we follow that star wherever it leads, it will lead us to Jesus! So with bowed heads, we pray...
Gracious God, help us focus on the brilliant star of faith you have given each of us. Help us follow that star through all the difficulties and obstacles of our journey. For in the end, we know that star will lead us to Jesus without fail. Then, safe with Jesus, your Son and our brother, welcome us to the abundant life promised us from the beginning of time. We ask this grace of you, O God, our Creator, our Healer and our Abiding Spirit. AMEN!