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For Your Weekend: The Promise of Hope and the Fullness of Joy

Jeannine Yousif

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 2:112

It was the first graders that stole the show this year at my children’s Christmas pageant. Dressed in their Catholic school uniform best, they stood in front of the altar and, in all their glory, sang their little hearts out. But it was their belting out of the refrain of the song that sealed it for the audience, that made all of us, even those who did not have first graders this year, giggle aloud and smile with effusive joy. 

“OHHH. OHHHHHHHHHH. Star of wonder. Star of night. Star with royal beauty bright.” 

We find the Scripture passage that inspired this song in our Sunday gospel, celebrating the Epiphany, the mysterious visit from strangers asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Matthew 2:2).

The Magi embarked on a journey that saw them travel far from their homeland, following celestial signs in search of the fulfillment of a prophecy. This star of wonder, full of beauty bright led them first to Jerusalem and then shortly after to the small town of Bethlehem. 

This familiar passage, a favorite of my children, evidenced by their joy as they add the final enamel figurines—complete with camels adorned in royal robes and jewels—to our nativity scene, is also one brimming with hope. Perhaps this is why children are drawn to it, if not only for the enjoyable Christmas carol.

This passage is, after all, a prophecy of its own. Just before the Magi’s appearance in our Church calendar, the Jewish shepherds are first led to the manger, to the foot of our King’s humble throne. This foreshadows the order in which the New Covenant will be ushered in upon the maturity of this small, innocent child. It is first among the chosen people that our Lord begins His ministry, sharing the good news of His message. Then, following His death and resurrection, it is to the Gentile nations that the apostles are commissioned to go. 

The triumphant mystery to be revealed is that this child not only is the divine King of heaven and earth but also is the One by whose shining light and radiance all nations and kings shall walk, and all people will be gathered together through Him (Isaiah 60:3). 

These three sojourners from the East couldn’t have known or understood the depth and breadth of the kingdom the infant Jesus inherited when they knelt before Him in praise and adoration. 

Or maybe they did. 

Maybe it was the promise of hope they clung to during their long, arduous journey from afar. Perhaps it was the promise of hope that they read in the skies and their charts that buoyed them when met with the nefarious interest of Herod in Jerusalem, where the star first led them. 

Look closely at those Magi figurines as you place them outside the creche. Might you find hope glimmering in their eyes? 

Sister, the Magi did not know Jesus personally, yet they still sought Him. They endured, persevered, and continued on until they found Him. And when they arrived before Him, the account did not record any disillusionment or disappointment. There was no confusion on their faces or questions arising from their lips, asking why, instead of royal robes, the child they met was wrapped in cloth paid for by a tradesman’s wage, why, instead of on a golden throne, this King was found laying in the dirty straw of an animal’s feeding trough.

The Scripture notes that these men were “overjoyed at seeing the star” come to rest over the humble place in which the Holy Family resided that evening, eager to prostrate before the newborn King, offering Him homage and bountiful gifts (Matthew 2:10–11), actions associated with divine worship.[1]

Could their joy have been because at long last, when they laid their eyes on the child Jesus, the hope they had been carrying, that they had read in the heavens and on their charts was now fulfilled? Perhaps in this glimpse of the prophecy in real time, their eyes were enlightened to the whole mystery of God, to the divine revelation that God Himself desires for us all to know: that “[He] so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that no one would perish,” so that everyone, including them, could be welcomed home to the Father through eternal life (John 3:16).

Their eyes had been opened to this astonishing truth: the God of Israel, the God of Creation, had come to them, for them. God had descended from the heavens, entered their reality, and called to them. A journey of wonder and hope was fulfilled in this moment of perfect, joyful awareness. And their response was to give praise. “The Gentile magi offer Christ the worship that Herod, the chief priests, and scribes failed to offer.”[2]

Sister, do not let this moment pass you by. Allow the same joy and hope experienced by the Magi to penetrate any darkness that might be weighing on you. God is no longer out of grasp or some unknown celestial being to be feared. Right now, in this moment, He is here; God is with you. And He wants you to know deep down to the core of your soul how very much He loves you.

God so loved you that He sent His Son here so that you would never have to be alone again. Ever.

I know it sometimes feels too risky to hope. I know it feels too scary to give in to experience joy entirely because that other shoe will eventually drop, and we have to be ready for it. In our broken world, choosing hope and joy is far more difficult than closing inward and self-protecting, surviving on self-reliance or indifference. These can be hard habits to break.

But, possible. 

“For nothing is impossible with God,” my friend (Luke 1:37).

Let us choose hope and joy this new year or, if it’s easier, just for right now. God desires it for us. He came here, entered our reality, and called out to us so that we could have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10)!

An abundant life. A joy-filled life. A hope-filled life.

Let us follow the simple example set for us by the Magi, these truth seekers, followers of the light, and joyful bearers of hope. Let us fall to our knees in praise and offer a simple prayer to Emmanuel—who is God with us.

And then maybe because it’s the Epiphany and it will make Jesus smile, belt out that familiar refrain one more time.  You know the one: “OHHH. OHHHHHHHHHH. Star of wonder. Star of night. Star with royal beauty bright.” You’ve got the rest.

With you on the journey,
Jeannine

Food for thought or journaling…

What is stealing your joy and your hope right now? Where in your life do you need God to send His star of wonder to you, to illuminate the darkness, and to guide you to His perfect light?

Lord God, You promised me a “hope that does not disappoint because [Your] love has been poured into [my] heart” (Romans 5:5). “In your presence, O Lord, I will find my joy” (Psalm 16:11). “My hope in you never wavers…my mouth shall be filled with your praise” (Psalm 71:6,8). Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.

P.S. Tune in for faith, be surprised by the humor, and leave with hope. A new episode of Hope for Right Now: A Walking with Purpose Podcast launches each Monday morning. 

[1] Curtis Mitch & Edward Sri, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew (Baker Academic, 2010), 53.
[2] Ibid, 53.

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