On this, the 21st day of Advent, we share a devotion from Norman Vincent Peale that explores what it is that angels can teach us, at Christmas and all the year round.
And, lo, the star...went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.—Matthew 2:9
Soon after Christ’s birth, as everyone knows, Wise Men from the East came to Jerusalem. Tradition has it that there were three of them, although St. Matthew does not actually give us a number. They told everyone who would listen that they were seeking a child “born King of the Jews,” and that they were following a star they hoped would lead them to Him. Eventually the Star did just that, coming to rest directly over the place where the Holy Family was staying.
What was this miraculous manifestation in the sky that we call the Star of Bethlehem? Scientists have speculated that it might have been a supernova exploding far out in space. Others wonder if it could have been a highly unusual conjunction of planets. We have never heard anyone suggest that it might have been an angel. But who can say positively that it was not? Certainly it had some of the qualities we associate with angels: beauty and brightness, a purposeful intelligence, a willingness to guide or help human beings.
In discussing angels during this Advent season, we look for messages implicit in their appearances. The dangers of doubt as opposed to the life-giving qualities of faith. The need for humble acceptance of the Will of God. The necessity for and rewards of unquestioning obedience. The importance of seeking Christ personally and actively rather than relying on secondhand accounts of Him.
If there are lessons to be derived from those angelic appearances, what is the message of the Star? Is it not that faith and hope, courage and persistence are required of all of us as we journey through life? The Wise Men left the security of their homes and “traversed afar field and fountain, moor and mountain” following the Star. Travel was a risky business in those days. What kept them going? Faith and hope, courage and persistence. And their reward was great, because these quiet qualities at last brought them into the Presence of Christ Himself.
One of our beloved Christmas carols urges us to fall on our knees and hear the angels’ voices. Let us try to listen for them, not just at Christmastime, but on every single day of the year.
Dear Lord, may the glory that You sent to the Wise Men so long ago shine on us and around us and through us as long as we live. Amen.
This story first appeared in the December 1992 edition of Guideposts.