Driving around the city looking at Christmas lights is always a lot of fun -- even more so with a couple five year olds who ooh and ah at every house as though it were better than the last one. We love lookingat these illumination artists as they do their best to protest against these dark nights. Something within us resonates with their message.
At Christmas, we celebrate the Light has come. Here are three stories of some other people you may have heard from who came to the Light in some very different ways:
THE MAGI: hey were not kings (sorry to disappoint you), but they could have been kingmakers. They were part of the priestly class within the Parthian Empire (east of Palestine in northeast Iran). They were a mix of royal counselors, dream interpreters, and scientists who studied a mix of astronomy and astrology to try to understand their world. They formed the upper house of the Megistanes Council whose duties included electing the kings of the Parthian Empire.
For centuries the Hebrew faith had been present in Persia, due in part to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews and their integration into eastern society. These Magi -- whose Zoroastrian faith would have also emphasized a coming Messiah and the pursuit of Truth as given by one supreme God -- would have been familiar with Jewish prophecies of a Messiah born in Palestine. So when they saw a new star, their thirst for Truth and history of king-making caused them to set out on long journey following the light of the star.
The Magi came to the Light of Jesus the only way they could have -- through the pursuit of Truth -- fulfilling the promise that Jesus would be "a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel" (Luke 2:32). This Messiah was for ALL nations -- the Great Aha! for the Gentiles.
Saul: is story begins with the persecution of Christians. He was a Hebrew and a Pharisee who was hell-bent on the destruction of the Christian faith. He spent much of his time driving Christians out of the temples and synagogues and was even gave his nod to the stoning of the first Christian martyr Stephen outside the city gates of Jerusalem. He was driven by hatred.
On his way to Damascus to drive some Christians out of the synagogue there, he was stopped by a blinding light and there met Jesus. You can read the story in Acts 9. Paul came to the Light of Jesus the only way he could have -- directly from Jesus himself (the same way countless thousands are coming to Christ today across the Middle East and elsewhere).
An Undesirable Bunch of Ordinaries: if you're going to build a dream team, you should do it with the best and brightest, right? You look for natural leaders, extroverts, the driven type-A's. Jesus didn't do that. Instead, he formed a posse of drop-outs, tax collectors, collaborators, revolutionaries, schemers, teenagers, hot-heads and a few guys so insignificant we never learn anything about them except their names.
His dream team -- or as Jesus called them, "the light of the world" (Matthew 5). These guys came to the Light the only way they could have -- through the loving faithful presence of Jesus himself.
The Light of Jesus shines in a way people can understand it and receive it. The Magi understood it because God revealed it in Truth and in natural revelation. Paul understood it because of direct Divine intervention. The disciples understood it because of Jesus' loving presence and example.
And when each of them saw the Light, they went a different Way -- the Way of Jesus. The Magi went home a "different way" without paying homage to an earthly prince named Pilate. Saul stopped killing Christians and became a great advocate for the Gospel. Those undesirable ordinaries took the Gospel all over the known world.
The Light shines -- that's what light does. And it shines so brightly that even scholars or those blinded by their own hate or the rejected and outcast can see it. And they see it in Jesus.