Seek Him

Christmas tells a different story.
It tells us that a deeper moral change comes from encountering the
Presence who loves us, instead of threatening us;
Who comes to find us instead of shaming us;
who comes to change the human heart by offering it compassion and forgiveness
instead of forcing and humiliating us.
Christmas is ‘God with us’ rather than the ‘state over us.’

Bishop Gavin Ashenden


(image courtesy the web)

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!”
Luke 2:14

“God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh.
His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human
understanding:
the Infinite has become a child,
has entered the human family.
And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him.”

Pope Benedict XVI

A very Merry Christmas to all of my family, friends and dear blogging family,
each and everyone…be they near or far…

Pax

Intimate affair

O, Star of wonder, star of night
Star of royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Lyrics from the Christmas Carol
“We Three Kings of Orient Are…”

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(image of the Adoration of the Magi by Giotto / Cappella Scrovegni / Padova. Pad ova, Italy / 1305)

“Not everyone sees the star”

Observes Christoph Blumhardt in his Advent reflection The Wisemen’s Star.

If everyone had seen the star,
would not all of ancient Palestine been turned upside down from such
an extraordinary sighting of a brilliant light illuminating the eastern sky?

Has not history shown us that the sighting, and subsequent gathering,
was not intended as a major crowd massing phenomenon…

but rather a more intimate affair…

Gathered were a host of angels, a handful of shepherds, three wisemen,
along with a sundry menagerie.

Not exactly the breaking news, front page headline sort of event…

But rather a quiet tender affair…
Intimate,
private,
personal…
and closely gathered.

The birth of a child…

Yet not just any child…

Blumhardt surmises that “it is necessary to have an upright, sincere heart.
Whoever is not filled with longing but is only inspired by egoism,
only interested in his own salvation, with no feeling for sighing creation—
he will not see a star even when it is there; he does not see the glory of the Lord.

So we must ask ourselves….
as we enter this new season of waiting….

Will we see the star?

Are we filled with desire and longing?

Is our heart sincere?

For if that is indeed so, that our hearts are indeed ready…both longing and looking…
we must remember not to be late,
for we have been invited to an amazingly intimate affair.

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Matthew 2:9-10

a thousand stars

O Father may that Holy Star Grow every year more bright,
And send its glorious beams afar to fill the world with light.

-William Cullen Bryant

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(star sunflowers / Sleive League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Each evening during the season of Advent, as the sun sinks just beyond the horizon, watchful eyes lift skyward scanning the heavens eastward for a single star which shines brighter than the rest.

A sign
A signal
A symbol

As the Christian faithful gather together,
anxiously watching and waiting for direction.

A command
A compass
A course

Open questions now beg to be answered…
Where shall we go?
What are we to find?
What are we to do?

And as those questions skip across the nighttime breeze,
an unseen Hand scatters a thousand stars across a dark December sky…

To seek
To search
To share

To find
To forgive
To free

To hope
To help
To heal

To defend
To define
To declare

To pray
To please
To praise

To worship
To wonder
To wander

To restore
To reach
To reform

To laud
To live
To love


“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”

Martin Luther

What do the wise among us see

“Saruman rose to his feet, and stared at Frodo. There was a strange look in his eyes of mingled wonder and respect and hatred. ‘You have grown, Halfling,’ he said. ‘Yes, you have grown very much. You are wise, and cruel. you have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and you! Well, I go and I will trouble you no more. But do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

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(a curious jackdaw watches from the crumbling walls at The Rock of Cahsel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

What of those wise men…
those sages of days long past…
those perceptive foreign kings who would travel from far far away in search of the sacred, the mysterious, the Divine?

What of those enlightened seers who once possessed a depth of wisdom not afforded to the masses of their time…
Of those scholarly patricians, scientists and astronomers of yore, those who studied both the heavens and the stars hoping to see, to foretell, and to discern those dire or joyful events which were to befall mankind…

I wonder what their thoughts, predictions, and discernments would be for our day and of our time…would they travel day and night all those many miles wandering only hoping to pay homage or rather would they hasten to warn those willing few brave enough to heed their divinations?

Would their concern be of the escalating global warming as they measured various viscous liquids watching the rise and fall of floating objects within a myriad of glass vessels?
Would they gather dirt and seed while measuring the falling rains?
Would the increasing number of tumultuous storms, floods, fires and earthquakes give way to a heightened need of understanding fueling their global quest?
Would their concern be of the climate shift and of the rising ocean temperatures?
What of the mysterious “die offs” of massive numbers of fish, antelopes, star fish, birds…
What would these learned men who sought to understand the balance between health and living make of these new pandemics, epidemics, plagues and unexplained global sicknesses?
What of the melting icecaps, would they even be aware of opposing earthly poles encased in ice and snow?

Would they unroll their brittle parchments and calfskin scrolls plotting and planning while measuring the charted maps of both known land, sea and heavens?
Would their vision be cast upward during a nighttime sky as they pondered the oddity of 4 successive large reddish moons which each oddly took place during a holy day or festival of the Hebrew people?

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(the half moon in the Killarney night sky / Sept 2015 / Julie Cook )

Would they read the words of ancient prophets and prophesies wondering if there were connections and correlations or would they simply pass it all away as coincidence.
Would they yield to the ancient scriptural warnings of things long foretold or would they consider the ancient tomes written by those delusional and crazed?

What of the star, that lone bright and brilliant star which had beckoned them years prior to that tiny Jewish village on the periphery of the expansive Roman Empire…
What of the ancient texts and the cross references of the both sacred and secular…were they but mere conjecture?

What other celestial and earthly signposts and events must appear before the wise and the average both understand?

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(moonlight over Killarney, Ireland / Sept 2015 / Julie Cook

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:6-14

Star of Wonder

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

(refrain from the carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are”

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(three images of the same etched star on an antique weathervane / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2:2

Men of science, astronomy, astrology, letters and words, who had studied the heavens, the alignment of the stars and the visible planets, as well as spending countless hours deciphering the venerable manuscripts of days gone by, knew that something seismic was soon set to take place. Something so epic, which was far greater than anything they or any living man had ever seen or studied before, was about to turn the world upside down.

Three very learnéd, dare we say, wise men, most likely from Persia or perhaps even the Far East, were the ancient equivalents of modern day storm chasers. They “saw” that something cosmic and life changing was soon to take place and they wanted more than anything to go directly to the source of this most significant event.
They plotted and planned.
They cross referenced information.
They eventually collaborated and corroborated one another’s findings.
They made educated conclusions.
And the only remaining option was to physically document their findings.

They set out in search of the phenomenon. . .
They most likely traveled individually at first, unaware that others were making the same journey of discovery. Then perhaps along their travels, they eventually meet one another, each in pursuit of the miraculous, welcoming a fellow scholar in search of history.
Each man was determined to “see” with their own eyes the predicted event which they knew, without a doubt, would change life as it was known forever.

They rode for hundreds of miles, day and night, continually looking skyward, checking the alignment of one particular star. It was the brightest of brightest of stars. They also read and reread new and old data, plotted and ciphered over their scrolls and maps, eventually making their way to a far-flung Roman outpost in the province of Judea. They sought out and introduced themselves to the region’s megalomaniac ruler, Herod the Great.

Herod, a man whose only allegiance was to himself, saw in these three foreign wealthy wise kings a potential boon to his greedy power-hungry appetite for they were carrying great wealth as gifts for this prophesied event of which they spoke. Yet as they spoke, it became clear that their vision, their predicted monumental life changing event, was to be but a mere birth.
A birth of a king they proclaimed.
But this was not to be just any king.
This was to be a king of all kings.
Suddenly Herod’s gracious yet sly welcome turned to the defensive as a new threat seemed to be appearing upon his kingdom’s landscape.

He bid these strange foreign kings farewell as they set out on the completion of their journey for they knew that their destination was close at hand. Yet Herod gave instructions for the wise kings to return to his court for a grand celebration following their adventure’s end, as he was anxious to hear all about this newly born king they were to soon meet.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2:9-12

And so it was, just as predicted, that the heavens foretold and would lead and direct great men of wealth and wisdom to a desert village and a humble barn, in order to witness not a mere birth of a mere baby, but rather they were to witness a cataclysmic event which reverberated throughout the entire universe.

Wise men sought him.
Wise men who knew enough that it was to this King’s throne who they, great men of wealth and wisdom, were to yield and bow down.
As it takes a wise man to know when he has met one who is much greater than himself.

Shadows to Light

There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.
Joseph Barber Lightfoot

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:4

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(sunlight dapples throughout the leaves on a warm Fall morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

Hiding in the shadows, obscured by darkness
your Secrets and lies fester,
growing ever bolder and more dangerous.

Trolling the recesses of open thoughts and minds,
whispering falsehoods as truth.
Your questioning becomes my confirmation.

Seeking the prideful and arrogant,
the egotistical and the conceited.
Your bravado is my open door.

Flourishing in the opaque.
No light passes toward my presence,
yet my name was once Bearer of Light.

However, a battle ensued, when all darkness was finally cast aside,
there appeared a single star in an Eastern sky
Larger and brighter than any star ever seen by man.

It was then that the true Light engulfed the birth of Salvation
For now all those things hidden in the darkness
have been brought forth in Truth and Glory

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
1 Corinthians 4:5

Brilliant earthly star

“Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light.
Above all things reverence thyself.”

Pythagoras

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(ariel view of a bromeliad bloom / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words. They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of their character, though few can decipher even fragments of their meaning.”
Lydia M. Child