Note: Peter Baklinski is a Canadian-based reporter for LifeSiteNews.com
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” – Matthew 10:2
COMBERMERE, On, December 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Tim, can you see anything yet?” Joe and I asked eagerly as we both braced the rickety old step-ladder in the middle of the snow-covered yard.
“No, not yet,” Tim shouted down from near the top. “But I think one should start shining any moment. It’s almost dark now. Keep on holding the ladder steady.”
It was the night before a Christmas in the late 1980s. The three of us boys were bound and determined to find the first twinkling star in the ever darkening sky.
And why were we looking for the first star? Because of our family’s long-lived tradition that the Polish Christmas feast celebrated on Christmas Eve could only begin when the first star appeared in the heavens.
The Polish Christmas feast is the supreme meal of the year. It’s the meal by which all other meals are rated and judged – at least that’s what my brothers and I thought. There are twelve sumptuous courses beginning with a deep red beet soup, traveling through pierogies (Polish dumplings stuffed with things like potato and cheddar cheese) topped with sour cream, moving on to numerous fish dishes, sauerkraut fried for hours in buttery onions and mushrooms, and many more. Each dish has a spiritual meaning connected to Christ’s birth. My mouth simply waters writing about it.
The most surprising thing about this meal is that it’s meatless, to remind us of the poverty of the stable in Bethlehem. But between you and me, there was nothing impoverished about this meal of meals (that’s the Slavic mindset for you, feasting in times of alleged fasting).
Joe and I braced the ladder, our hands beginning to grow numb from the biting cold. Our logic seemed absolutely flawless in our childlike minds. To us young lads between ages 7-11, it made perfect sense that the higher up we were in the sky, the sooner we’d spot that first star. And the sooner we spotted the star, the sooner we would start the feast.
“Anything yet Tim?” I shouted up.
“I think… I see… something…,” he replied hesitatingly. “It’s hard to tell…”
“Keep looking,” Joe said encouragingly, his breath coming out all frosty in the frigid night air.
A few moments passed by.
“I SEE ONE, I SEE ONE,” Tim’s voice suddenly sang out enthusiastically. “Look, look over there,” he said, pointed with his finger.
There was no denying it. We could all see it plainly. A bright beautiful star shining out of the darkness.
“Quick, let’s go tell Mom it’s supper time,” Tim said. “Yes, let’s,” Joe and I chimed in.
The three of us in snow pants, thick winter coats, heavy boots, and mittened hands, abandoning the ladder in the middle of the yard, rushed merrily through the deep snow towards the golden-glowing windows of our family’s farm house. We burst through the front door, shouting aloud that it was time to start the Christmas feast….
Reflecting on this experience today, I vividly recall the anticipation of seeing that first star, followed by joy and excitement at its appearing. To me the star meant the beginning of the greatest birthday feasting of the year. To the wise men it meant the arrival of a new king who would change the world forever.
“For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” -Matthew 2:2
As I grow older (and hopefully wiser), I begin to realize the meaning of the feasting, the fine wine, the bedecked Christmas tree, the decorated house, the carols, is all to help our hearts celebrate the birth of Christ with a true joy and excitement.
Why should Christ’s birth be celebrated? Because God saw the best way to reveal himself was through the defenselessness, dependency, and utter weakness of a tiny baby. Why is this worthy of celebration? Because a baby cannot be loved too much, cherished too much, contemplated too much. In other words, the God of the entire cosmos wanted to make it very easy for us to love him, so he came as a little baby. Pure genius!
Christmas is awesome because it reveals the heart of the God we worship. The circumstances of his birth reveal a God who is simple, humble, who is unafraid of poverty. He is a God who humbles himself so he can be approached by all.
That he deigned to come as a little baby reveals a God who sees defenselessness, dependency, and weakness as the greatest way of showing his power. We see this self-emptying strategy (see Phil. 2:7) being used thirty-three years later on Calvary. Works every time. He is a God who totally empties himself so that he can be loved by all.
You know what I think? Christmas reveals that at the heart of God is the heart of a child. If we want to enter heaven one day, we have to beg him for a heart just like his own, the heart of a child (Matt. 18:3).
Christmas is the perfect time to admit that most of us are tin-men in search of a real living heart. It’s the perfect time to approach the Divine Wizard — it’s so easy, he’s just a baby — and ask for a new heart with which to love.
This Christmas day let’s pray — both you and me— to receive the heart of a child from the new born Jesus. “Lord, give me the heart of a child, and the awesome courage to live it out as an adult,” once prayed Servant of God Catherine Doherty, foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate. It’s a radical prayer, one that could turn the culture around if enough people started living it out.
If you’re driving down Highway 62 tonight and see a child atop a ladder in the midst of a snowy yard, it’s probably me with my seven year-old daughter looking for the first star, at my suggestion…
“Maranatha, Lord Messiah, long awaited from afar.
Come and make your home among us.
Let us see your birthing star.”
– From the hymn Maranatha, Lord Messiah