By Samuel Parrish
“After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” – Matthew 2:9-10
Advent carries with it a sense of expectation that we find no other time during the church calendar. It is a season of beginnings, of promises fulfilled, of hope in the midst of great darkness. The promised Kingdom of God is finally here, and according to Matthew’s account only a handful of scholars from the east were even looking for it. The entire Roman world was churning with activity as two million men and their families traveled back to their ethnic homeland for the Great Census. While the world was looking for a hotel room, these men were looking for God.
The magi from the east knew what they were looking for. The prophets were clear: a king would be born in Judea in Bethlehem who would be the great shepherd for the nation of Israel. Their studies pointed to a star that would rise over the place where the king was born. In the Matthew account, they saw the star after their meeting with King Herod, and rejoiced that they had found what they were looking for. Their joy quickly became generosity as they presented Mary and Joseph gifts fit for the king in their midst. Expectation. Fulfillment. Joy.
So then why does the Advent Expectation end in sorrow for so many of us year after year? Maybe it’s because that’s all we expect Christmas to be. It’s one more year of watching people’s perfect lives on social media as they decorate Christmas cookies and go look at neighborhoods lit up for the season. It’s one more year of family gatherings with those same people who hurt you years ago, and never apologized. It’s one more year alone because you can’t hang out with “those people” anymore after you started following Jesus. We expect to be forgotten, to be hurt, to be alone. And every year that’s what we find.
What would it take to look for something else?
God has promised us that if we look for him, we WILL find him. Proverbs 8:17 says “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” He says the same thing in Jeremiah 29:13. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 7:7.
The wise men went on this journey two thousand years ago, and their journey ended with joy and extravagant generosity.
As the daylight fades and the nights get colder, let’s go on a new journey this year that’s really several millennia old. In faith, let’s expect to find God this Advent season. Let’s expect to find glad tidings of great joy for each and every one of us. And then, let’s diligently seek him knowing that he will be found!