When this year began, there were many allusions to 20/20 vision, the mark of perfect sight. How hopeful we were! As we look back now, how do we see the events of this year? Maybe 20/20 vision is too clear. Too painful. Maybe we mark the year with cynicism, anger, sorrow, despair.
We can’t help but draw conclusions. What does it all mean? What will life look like now?
I wonder what conclusions were made about Mary, the young, unwed pregnant girl who claimed her pregnancy came from God. She’s mad. She’s a liar. She’s dirty. She’s impure. Unworthy. It was easy to look at that swelling belly and know what was really going on.
And Joseph. He’s a fool, they must have said. Besotted and ridiculous. Either that, or much too noble for the likes of Mary. Poor man. Raising another man’s child.
But Mary herself, sitting alone and quiet in her room, saw an angel and concluded her God could be trusted, even with this, the upending of her plans. Joseph concluded his betrothed had betrayed him until an encounter with the holy changed his mind. He had to learn to look at things differently, to trust a path he didn’t understand.
Only this kind of vision could enable Joseph to take her hand, could help Mary endure the false perceptions of her character. They had seen something else and had drawn different conclusions.
There were wise men who watched and listened and concluded that what was happening in the sky was something important, something worth checking out. Have you ever wondered why they would travel so far just to bring gifts to a king born in a distant land, unconnected with their own? They must have drawn some mighty conclusions about that king, conclusions that went beyond their own little worlds.
The shepherds concluded that what was happening was great enough to talk about it far and wide, amazing enough to risk their reputations and be called crazy. They, too, had seen something. They had encountered the holy.
Our God entered the world in a time of darkness, silence, need, and despair. He came to a people oppressed and ruled by a tyrant, and used the decisions of that tyrant to slip in among us. While others were drawing conclusions of hopelessness, a handful of people, unlikely ever to meet under any other circumstances, were concluding that God had come near, that impossibly, they were holding Him in their very arms.
The shepherds probably returned to their sheep and their nighttime conversations. The wise men gave their gifts and made the long journey home. Life for the mother and father only became more difficult as they were chased by the tyrant into a foreign land. The weary world didn’t rejoice, not yet. It went on being weary. But these few had seen God come among them. An opening had been made, and light was sifting through.
Did the shepherds live long enough to see Jesus grow up and become the Healer? Did the wise men ever know what became of that king they bowed to? Did Joseph know what would happen to the son he raised, and to the world afterwards? Who knows. When they beheld Jesus for the first time, they had no way of knowing what would happen. But they had seen enough to conclude that this was something worth following, worth talking about, worth life itself.
This year, everyone is talking about the “Bethlehem star” of 2020. Is this the reemergence of the Christmas Star? If so, what does that mean? I’m taking it as a symbol of hope, a reminder that God is near. A Healer is among us.
Maybe you can watch those planets converge this year and remember the night God came. Maybe you can draw your conclusions about 2020 from the side of the manger, where a tiny Child breathes in a world dark with cynicism and hopelessness, and you can remember that the story begun in darkness held a star of hope that pointed to the ending, blazing with joy. Maybe you can make your own journey to the king, remembering there’s a far country waiting for you, and of that kingdom there will be no end.
*Five Minute Friday: Conclude