In her book Stars, with thoughts about Christmas, Chieko N. Okazaki shares some important lessons from obscure parts of the Christmas story. I like what she writes about the wise men who had followed the star until they arrived at Herod’s court. There they inquired of the king’s scholars where the child was born–the scholars knew their scriptures and gave the answer of Bethlehem–and the wise men set off for that town. Sister Okazaki points out:
“It is not enough for us to know what the scriptures say. It is not enough for us to have knowledge–even correct and complete knowledge. We will not see the star unless we leave the court. We will not be led unless we are willing to move. We will not find the child unless we are willing to journey to a place that may only be a strange and foreign name on our mental map. And we will never know what it feels like to ‘rejoice with exceeding great joy’ unless we yearn and seek and journey.”
“There are times and situations and circumstances in our lives when a shepherd’s response of a few hours or an interrupted night’s sleep is not enough. To set our lives in order or to gain the kind of living faith in the Savior that we must have, we may need to make the journey of the wise men, leaving our psychological homes and familiar surroundings, testing the flattering words of the Herods who surround us, being willing to travel far with only the glimmer of a star to guide us. We must travel sometimes with only hope as our companion, because we saw no angels and hear no majestic choirs singing. But hope is enough to lead us to the Savior if we will persevere.”
In a chapter considering the Christmas story from the point of view of the Nephites in the Americas, Sister Okazaki highlights how different their experience and understanding of Christmas would have been from that of those in Palestine and what we traditionally think of. For them, Christ’s birth was intricately associated with his death because of the vision of Nephi and the prophecies Samuel the Lamanite. This “close connection between the bright and the dark–between glory and suffering” changes the tenor of the story a bit. It reminds us that “there are beautiful and glorious places in our lives, and there are dark and destructive places in our lives, just as there are in the Christmas story. The way of Jesus is to go into both places, to make the glorious places even more radiant, to bring wholeness to the broken places, and to transform the dark places into light. But he can only go on the way that we offer willingly to him. He can only pass through the gates that we open to him. He can only make whole the broken fragments that we put into his hands. He is the newness of the baby in the manger and the eternality of Christ the Redeemer who created the heavens and the earth.”
Merry Christmas Eve to all!