Which way was it again?
Recently there have been a number of YouTube videos showing people doing 'straight line challenges', in which people video themselves attempting to cross Norway, Wales or Nevada in a totally straight line. No deviations from the straight line are allowed, not even to access bridges over motorways or rivers or get around buildings or private property. It's entertaining watching them try to get up the steep face of a mountain, to clamber through or over a gigantic hedge, or to persuade a farmer to let them pass through their living room or over their silage pile.
This Epiphany, I found myself thinking that following a star would present a similar challenge. Assuming stars move in straight lines too, rather than helpfully guiding you down A roads like some kind of 1st century satnav, the Magi would have had a lot of difficult terrain to negotiate, getting over rivers, around lakes, mountains, unfriendly towns and dangerous valleys. It would be tricky to keep an eye on a star and where it is going when it's hidden from view by daylight, clouds or trees.
It also made me think about how life is sometimes. As followers of Jesus Christ, we know broadly where we're supposed to be headed, looking to bring about God's hope, love and justice in the world. But often on the ground in the reality of life, things are not so straightforward, and particularly in the past two years it's not always been obvious what's the right path to take, which mountains we should clamber over, and which we should walk around.
There's a passage from 2 Chronicles 20 which for me has been really helpful in those moments of uncertainty. The people of Judah are about to be attacked, they can see huge enemy armies lining up against them, and their king Jehoshaphat delivers a prayer in which he admits the hopelessness of the situation. His words have stayed with me over the years: "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."
If 2022 throws us a few curveballs, I don't think that's a bad verse to go back to.
God of love,
As we move further into a new year, may we know your spirit before us and behind us, and may our eyes stay fixed upon you.
In Jesus name,