The Paradox of the Stars

Matthew 2:1-12

I’m sure each of us have had the occasion when we’ve looked up into the sky on a clear night and were awestruck by the enormity of the star-filled sky, and perhaps thought of what it might have been like for the magi, looking for guidance that evening.  Even though the naked eye can see only a small fraction of the universe God has created, the myriad of twinkling lights in our field of vision can be stunning, if not overwhelming.

                         

At this moment, I might liken it to the field of vision of a certain deacon who has over time become accustomed to preaching to much smaller audiences in much smaller churches, and then drawing the assignment of preaching at St Sebastian Parish for the very first time, looking out at over 800 stars in the congregation- that too, I must tell you is stunning, if not overwhelming!

 

The enormity and vastness of the stars in the sky naturally reminds us of how small we are in relation to God and his creation.  But when we consider the night sky through the lens of Scripture, and hearing that the magi were overjoyed at seeing this particular star, we find ourselves invited by our Maker to be drawn to something bigger and brighter than the stars themselves.

 

The more that we study the universe, the more we find it to be so large, and glorious that it is incomprehensible to the human mind. One group of scientists estimated that the number of stars within range of our telescopes is 10 times greater than the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches and deserts. That’s a lot of stars!

 

Couple that with what we hear in Psalms: “Great is our Lord, abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” So our conclusion, based on both science and scripture, could naturally be, that in relationship to God, the creator of the universe, we are very much less than we suppose.

 

But we can also use scripture to conclude that we are greater than we suppose.  Even though man is nothing, it fills us with wonder and awe to think that (as we hear) “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” While we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason he created the universe!  His work and glory—the purpose for this magnificent universe—is to save and exalt mankind. God sees each one of us as among the stars, each one shining brightly, as he values us as his beloved sons and daughters.

 

In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.

 

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be insignificant, we have the eternal promise of salvation within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to lead us to it.

                               

Like the magi, we need to order ourselves to the star and not the darkness that surrounds it. The great deceiver, Satan, knows that one of his most effective tools in leading us astray is to appeal to the extremes of the paradox of man. To some, he appeals to their prideful tendencies, puffing them up and encouraging them to believe in the fantasy of their own self-importance. To others, Satan deceives through discouragement. He attempts to focus their sight on their insignificance until they begin to doubt that they have much worth. He tells them that they are too small for anyone to take notice, that they are forgotten—especially by God.

 

Here’s what we find if we re-order our lives to focus on the star. The Lord doesn’t care what worldly status we’ve attained, whether we spend our days cooking up burgers or hooking up mergers (a metaphor from a Stephen Curtis Chapman song).  No matter who we are, no matter what our circumstances, God calls us his beloved.  He will use us in his own way and for his holy purposes, if we re-order our lives to him.

 

God knows that some of the greatest souls who have ever lived are those who will never appear in the chronicles of history. They are the blessed, not because of achievement, their religious affiliation, their looks, their parents, their politics, or even their good works.  They are blessed because they humbly fixed their eyes on that star, Jesus Christ, who alone has guided them away from the darkness of the world to the light.

 

If we have a little trouble making the scriptural or spiritual connection between following the star and following Jesus, re-ordering our lives to him, here’s a poem that might crystalize things for us.  It was written by Leona Choy former evangelical missionary who converted to Catholicism.

It’s called “The Road Untraveled”.  It goes like this:

 

How can I follow the road untraveled without knowing where it leads?  It narrows at the crest of the hill.

 

I can't see beyond to the other side but I know it leads somewhere unfamiliar to me. The ruts look deep as if someone has dragged a heavy wooden object slowly up the road.  Since I must travel the road I'd feel better if I could follow someone.

 

Now I dimly see someone ahead of me standing at the top of the hill arms outstretched, and I know He can see the other side from his vantage point. He beckons, calling “Follow Me!”

 

JNow I can follow the road without a fear! I don't need to know where it leads as long as he knows. He has gone that way and already prepared the somewhere I will go, and that's enough for me!

 

How different our lives could be if only we could resolve to be that simple in our faith, to see the paradox that we are, knowing that we are less than we suppose in comparison to all of creation, but knowing that we’re more than we suppose as we see how cherished we are in the eyes of Christ?  And then living our lives that simply, as a light for others -a little porchlight to heaven for others to see the way!

 

If we ever doubt how much we matter to Christ, consider these 3 principles:

First, God loves the humble and meek, for they are “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” He humbles the proud and exalts the humble.

 

Second, no matter where we live, no matter how meager our employment, how ordinary our appearance, or how minimal we think we are in relation to others, we are not invisible to our Heavenly Father. He loves us. He knows our humble hearts and has seen all our unseen acts of love and kindness.

 

Third and finally, we need to remember that what we see and experience now is not what forever will be. We will not feel loneliness, sorrow, pain, or discouragement forever. We have the faithful promise of God that He will neither forget nor forsake those who incline their hearts to Him.  

 

We can be assured that if we listen prayerfully for his guidance, the road ahead, even if it seems a little unmanageable and narrow at the crest of the hill, will get us where we need to be, as long as we’ve pointed ourselves towards the guy at the top who can see the other side.

 

So we pray today that we can find that sweet spot where we grow in humility to be able to see how small we are in relation to all those bright stars in the sky, but at the same time, grow in the conviction that the guy who hung those stars loves us desperately and wants us to follow him!

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