Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
~ Matthew 2:1-2
It has been several years now since I took this photo of my son and daughter as we made our way across the Houston Ship Channel on the ferry late one night a few days after Christmas. We had gone to New Orleans following the final Christmas Service at the church I was serving. Along with my dad, the kids and I enjoyed walking historic streets, eating beignets covered in powdered sugar, and simply relaxing. On the last part of our journey, we took the ferry from Bolivar to Galveston, where we would then just drive across the Causeway Bridge and be home.
The night was dark, with no moon. The waves lapped at the boat as we made our way, and the lights from the refineries along the Galveston Bay reflected along the water's edge. My children stood at the front of the boat as the December wind rushed past their faces. I just remember standing, watching, and realizing I was experiencing one of the last trips that we would take, just us. Brad would have a son in the next two years, and Emily, was already in college with checklists before her as she made her way towards her degree.
I'm not sure where my dad was. I think walking the boat after having driven for nearly five hours. No doubt, surveying the way the vehicles had been loaded.
I look at this photo now and I think back to when I was so sick just over a decade ago, being told that I could die. While I prayed for God's healing, I also remember asking God to allow me to watch my daughter fall in love for the first time, and for my son to grow into a man. Funny how I look at this picture and I also realize answered prayer.
The season of Advent always seems to catch me, staring off in the distance, like my kids on the boat that night. Staring into a night that is dark, filled with unknowns, but yet, given passage to the exact spot I need to arrive at each time. I wish that I could say that I always trusted. That I am always faithful, never doubting. I'm thankful these moments are often short-lived, or are overshadowed by other things.
I look at this photo and remember being a kid growing up in Owen County, Indiana, standing just above the tassels of a September corn field, wondering what the next season would bring, while also feeling the need to wander.
About this time I imagine Mary, looking at her belly, feeling the child within, and staring into a night sky, remembered how she glorified God with her song with the announcement that she would be with child, while perhaps already feeling the first twitches of labor as the darkness of night surrounds her, now feeling unsure as the reality of childbirth drifts into her mind.
I have to wonder about the Magi, who were already watching the night sky, noting peculiar changes. The first twinkles of a star that would soon overtake the darkness, and serve as a guide as they walked dusty roads, lighting each step of the journey.
Once finding the newborn, the Magi were then told to travel back a different way. Joseph and Mary would once again go into the night's darkness as well, as they became refugees in the land of Egypt, carrying a son that was only days old.
Following one's heart is nothing new. Although the star of Bethlehem is said to have shone bright and provided the way, for those living today, we look to the sky, and for many, only see darkness. As I think about that night on the ferry, I realize now that my grown children have become the embodiment of the dreams they were having as they stared into that cold dark night.
We have become the indwelling light of Christ in a world that has seen some dark days.
Seeking to find the Christ child in each of us is something we all know about. It is a journey. It's arriving safely and opening the door to find hospitality and love. It's the feeling of being hugged after a long journey by those who have waited to greet you.
As this season of Advent continues, may we remember that some are still staring into a dark, night sky. For all of us, Advent isn't just a period of waiting. It is a journey. May we all seek and discover....
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.