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December 24, 2015

The Way of the Wandering Star.

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[Editor's note: The following is a sermon preached by my maternal grandfather, Rev. Robert H. Stephens, on December 23rd, 1951. He spent a career as a beloved pastor at Presbyterian churches mostly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He passed away in 1995, when I was still a teenager, but everyone in my family can still call to memory his rich and resonant preaching voice, and his gentle but firm manner. My aunt recently discovered the text to this sermon, and thought of me because its literary foundation is a G. K. Chesterton poem. We present it now with affectionate Christmas greetings for all our readers in this holy time.]

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Christmas is incredible! It would seem easy to prove that it never happened, that it just could never be. Think of it — a man and his wife pause in their pilgrimage before a crowded Inn, find shelter for the night only among the cattle, and there her Baby is born. An angel appears to ordinary shepherds in the fields nearby, announces the birth of that Baby, declares great things about Him; then a host of angels sing an anthem of peace and good-will. The angels disappear and the shepherds go off in search of the Child and find Him even as it was told them.

Three kingly travelers appear before an unkingly king, bring strange tidings of a true King to be born under a strange star, then set off down the path of that wandering star to find the Babe even as they believed. They lay their gifts before Him, then mysteriously disappear. And a wondering mother ponders all these strange things in her heart, while a loyal but bewildered husband stands by. Could the birth of that Baby in such strange circumstances be the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan for the human race?

It is impossible; yet it happened. It is incredible! Yet it’s true! It’s unbelievable! Yet it is the heart of our highest faith. It just couldn’t happen, yet it did; and because it did history is split in two and the whole destiny of the human race is profoundly altered. It’s too wonderful for words, yet more words have been written, spoken, and sung about it than any other event in history.

In G. K. Chesterton’s poem “The House of Christmas,” are two lines which express what I mean:

To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and are . . . !

Think, for example — it cannot be that God has come personally into this world — but He has!

Continue reading "The Way of the Wandering Star." »