To Search or Seek . . . and the Mystical Pull of a Christmas Star

Baboushka made her appearance this week. In Russian folklore she is the bearer of Christmas gifts as she searches for the Babe, leaving presents for every child just in case he or she is the one announced by three strangers that came to her door. They were seeking this child and invited her to travel with them so she could meet the Babe too. Baboushka didn’t leave with them, there were too many things to do first, but she intended to catch up. Of course, she never found them. She wanders now searching.

One seeks, one searches. Is there a difference? There is. We writers are curious about words and like their nuances. With seek, the focus is the item you’re trying to locate; there is an element of single-mindedness, ‘keeping an eye out for’ because you know the item exists. With search, it’s more about place, more task oriented; there is a sense of urgency. That’s why when you can’t find your car keys you ‘search high and low’!

Thinking about Baboushka and the Christmas Star that will appear this evening, made me meditate more on the three strangers – the Three Wise Men.

I checked my Encounter at Bethlehem Advent reflection for the author’s insight on those characters of the Christmas story. For some reason she didn’t include them. So here’s my attempt at channeling my inner Magi.

We’d been watching the heavens for days. Two bright bodies were coming together a few degrees closer each night. Any day we expected they may crash into one another and then what? There was no logical pattern as they drew toward each other, nothing like the movements of the heavens we knew. There was excitement and fear as we watched and waited. There was no crash, thank goodness, just this magnificent star. We know this isn’t really a star, but the alignment of these two bodies. Yet their brilliance can’t be denied. But it’s another force that’s drawing us to it. The sacred writings tell us to watch for a star in the East – one that will announce a Savior. Could this be it? So, it’s with this strange pull at our hearts, that’s greater than the pull to explain this manifestation, that we began this journey. But it’s been weeks now and still the star does not stop. Our servants grumble and are fatigued, they remind us of how Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and they fear that is their fate. We assure them the star is our guide, we know we are on the right course. Yet, we are tired too. In the midst of our excitement and hope, there are moments of doubt. Did we misread the patterns of the sky? Have we misread the sacred writings? Still, that undeniable pull, not pushed from behind to go forward, but the drawing to follow, as if the very star itself is more than just a sign, but the source of the energy that holds us. We cannot look away. We will keep our eyes focused on it, continue to seek this new king, this Savior.

I imagined the Magi’s journey from my own experience of spiritual seeking. It’s often a combination of zeal, being drawn toward something, longing, and an ache in my chest or the pit of my stomach. So much of it beyond my ability to explain or define, other than an inner knowing I’m on the right course.

As you can see from the photo, one of my kings doesn’t have hands. That’s not the way he appeared the Christmas my sister Lynda made the set for me over 30 years ago. I’ve tried fixing him, but the break is at an awkward angle and his treasure is too heavy for the glue to set. He’s a reminder that even in my own brokenness I’m still worthy of seeking and of being sought, of being drawn. Sometimes my hands are empty of any treasure because my brokenness – the hurts, prejudices, ego, doubt, worry – is too heavy. But like this King, I show up anyway the best I can.

Tonight I’ll show up to watch the appearance of the Christmas Star . . . or the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. I’ve read accounts of people being decidedly in one camp or the other. It’s either a long-awaited miracle heralding a renewal and rebirth – much needed after this year. Or it’s simply a scientific phenomenon, really cool and worthy of the excitement, but don’t attach any mystical significance to it – it’ll happen again, most of us just won’t be here to see it. Why can’t it be both? The Magi saw both the science and the sacred. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Hubby and I are fortunate to live in an area with little light pollution and with an unobstructed view of the star. The first night I looked, I was in awe of how bright and shimmery Jupiter was. I’ve not been able to go out every night, but I have my alarm set for this evening. Whichever camp you’re in – sacred, science, or both – I love the thought of millions of us outside gazing at the heavens at the same time. May those minutes of united awe, wonder, and excitement, and maybe peace and hope, carry us into the New Year.

May your Christmas be merry and bright, full of wonder and joy. I’ll open my window again in January.

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