O holy night! The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Yonder broke that new and glorious morn on the first day of Mesori, an Egyptian month. The Dog Star, Sirius, rose with the sun, shining in radiant and spectacular brilliance in those days over two thousand years ago. A thrill of hope rose inside the astrologers who lived in Persia and across Arabia. Mesori, a word that, in ancient Egyptian means birth of a king, coinciding with the brilliant rise of this star, could only mean one thing: a great king was born.
Off the magi went, a word that can mean magician, astrologer, or wise man. They wandered on their camels, traversing the rugged terrain. This was no ordinary traveling, as we might think of it today. They spent much of their time in need of water and food, always with a watchful eye for it was terribly unsafe to travel these roads. Bandits waited to steal goods, robbers were at the ready to take what was yours and sell it at market. The wise men knew this; they had frankincense, gold, and myrrh, easily sold at marketplaces.
So they traveled carefully, cautiously.
But they wandered nevertheless. An inkling, something faint, a thrill of hope perhaps, told them it was worth it. Something inside of them knew, as they wandered, what J.R.R. Tolkien famously said, “not all who wander are lost.” And so they embarked on a journey of faith.
Let’s read together our scripture for this morning’s Christmas Day worship, Matthew 2:1-2.
A thrill of hope.
It was enough to cause them to go search, to go and seek, to look for the truth.
They had no guarantee they’d find any truth. They did not know that their journey would be successful. But there was a tug on their souls, a motivation deep inside of them to go seek, and so they did.
They were thought of as foolish. Their journey was terribly risky. They had no guarantee of success.
Their entire basis for traveling was a star that rose with the sun, shining brilliantly, on the first day of a month of an ancient calendar, a month whose name meant birth of a king in an extinct language. Hardly enough evidence to motivate us. Hardly enough evidence to motivate their colleagues.
But here they came, “led by the light of a star sweetly gleaming.”
And when they arrived, directed by the light of the star, they found “the king of kings lay thus in lowly manger; in all our trials born to be our friend.”
They found a simple house. In a simple town. The home of a commoner, not a king. The home of a carpenter, not a royal ruler. And yet, that same stirring in their souls, that inkling, that thrill of hope, told them that this simple setting with an everyday baby was the king they had been looking for. This was the truth they had sought with their whole heart.
And they worshipped him. They offered their homage. Their search had proven successful. The truth they sought in the light of the Dog Star, rising on the first day of Mesori; the truth they had only an inkling of, that same truth that set them on their journey, on their searching, on their wandering; that truth was there, in this common house in an unremarkable town.
Not all who wander are lost; not these astrologers, these magi. No, they were found. They beheld their king, for in their souls, yonder broke a new and glorious morn.
They had found the truth. And their response was the only proper response when we find the truth: worship.
But what if we haven’t found it yet?
Not all who wander are lost.
Those who have courage wander; they set out on a journey that begins with an inkling, a thrill of hope, that perhaps, maybe, just maybe, there’s something greater out there, there’s something worth worshipping out there, there’s some truth worth giving our lives to.
It begins like it did for the wise men, with a faint inkling; a thrill of hope.
If we’re brave, like these magi, if we choose courage, we go in search of that inkling, trying to find its satisfaction. People will call us fools, like the colleagues of these wise men. People will think we’re chasing after dreams. For we can’t prove the truth when we find it; not in the empirical sense. We can’t even prove with logic that inkling, that thrill of hope, for it defies logic.
But that’s the nature of faith. It requires that we believe what we cannot prove. It requires that we worship what we cannot fully explain. It requires that we do like these wise men, set out on a journey of faith, based on an inkling, a thrill of hope, believing that we will discover the glory of God, that we will find that Jesus Christ is indeed King of our lives.
Not all who wander are lost. No, in fact faith is a journey.
That’s the call on our lives today, as a Christmas people! We’ve waited for the Christ child to come into our lives and world and, today, we mark that occasion! How wonderful to be gathered together to do so on Christmas Day! Into our world, God broke with the news that our savior is born! That we have release from what ails us and our world, and that we have a friend in Jesus, who bears our suffering and knows our weakness.
In response to this glorious gift, we are called to go, wander, take the journey of faith.
Faith is a journey. It’s one that God walks with us, whether we know it or not, for God is with us before we even know that God is there, even before we believe. God is with us from our birth, and God walks the journey, calling to us. The promise of Advent, the promise of Christmas, is as true for us today as it was for Mary, Joseph, and the wise men: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” Not just with the wise men in the form of a baby but with all of us who claim his name.
Christ is Emmanuel, God with us.
This morning, do you know that?
If you don’t, I suspect there’s an inkling, a thrill of hope, somewhere deep inside of you. Maybe it’s been repressed for a while. Our empirical, logical, world tells us to dismiss it. Don’t. Choose courage. Undertake the journey. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
If you do know that God is Emmanuel, keep walking the journey of faith. God is with us every step of that journey as Emmanuel. And God has chosen us as the ones to bear the name of Christ into the world. Sometimes, our faith journey still requires courage and still requires that we follow that thrill of hope, that inkling. Continue to choose courage, for even when we wander, we are not lost.
Faith is a journey. One that sometimes leaves us feeling as though we’re wandering with only the faintest inkling of hope. Wherever you are on that journey of faith today, take courage, be brave, follow the inkling like these wise men, and you will find a thrill of hope.
Not all who wander are lost.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Amen.