Parol made of capiz shells. (Photo by Eugene Alvin Villar, 2007)
Reading: Matthew 2
Christmas lantern in the shape of a star, known as parol is the most common symbol of Christmas spirit in the Philippines. Every Filipino child knows what it is and they are taught how to make one. The parol symbolizes the star that appeared in the east when Jesus was born which guided the three wise men to Bethlehem. That same star also symbolizes the power of the light over darkness. Probably the lights that we hang around Christmas time also came from the same basic idea.
The second chapter of Matthew talks about the appearance of the star in the east. He came as the light of the world (John 8:12) and promised those who would follow him that they will not walk in darkness.
Not everyone saw the star. It was written all over the scriptures that a Messiah would come and to the Jews this is a hope that came down from generation to generation starting from Abraham (Genesis 18:18) to Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) and to David. This hope and expectation has been part of the Jewish tradition as their forefathers did. They were looking for the arrival of the Messiah when God will restore their position with Him.
Then Jesus was born in Bethlehem. There were fireworks... and parades... and parties... and houses were decorated...it was a holiday because this is the fulfillment of what they've been waiting for. Right? Not really. Other than Joseph and Mary, their relatives like Elizabeth and Zechariah, and the shepherds whom the angels talked to, no one knew about the birth of a king. Not even the owner of the barn where he was born knew.
One day, as described in Matthew 2:1-2, some foreign philosophers, called Magi, arrive in Jerusalem and claimed to have been brought there by the star of the new-born Jewish King. They saw the light from the star and followed it. They came to pay homage to the new king of the Jews, never mind that they are not Jews. So we see that Jesus did not arrive secretly. There was enough sign for anyone to see. However, not everyone saw the light. Not everyone welcome him the way we would expect a royalty was to be treated.
Even now, the Good News is delivered everywhere for everyone to hear it so that everyone would receive Him. Just like the first star in the east, it was there, shining brightly but only those whose hearts are open will see recognize Him. Not only will some not recognize Him, some will feel threatened at the mention of His name. Herod, instead of acknowledging Jesus as the new king, planned to destroy Him (Matthew 2:13)
God takes care of those who seek Him. In the second chapter of the book of Matthew, we see a demonstration of God's protection to those who are on his side. The Magi did not know what was in Herod's mind but God already knew and was busy planning their detour before Herod could do anything. The same thing is true with Joseph. He was unaware of the developing trouble around Jesus, but God warned him in a dream.
Jesus came to this world as our Savior. He came so everyone would believe and follow Him. He planned for us to follow Him so that we can spend eternity with Him. This, however, did not mean that our life will all be beds of roses. In fact, to follow Him requires that we deny ourselves and take up your cross (Luke 9:23). To follow Him is not freedom from trouble. But when we are on His side, we have His protection as He carries out His plans. It would have been easier for the Magi to send their presents by FedEx but the knowledge that was revealed to them was so compelling that they had to do what had to be done. This was no ordinary king, this is the King of kings. Joseph likewise was yielded to his dreams and moved his family several times. He beleived. Action is the expression of what we believe.
God involves us in His Work to Strengthen our Faith. When I first believed, there were questions that I desperately needed to be answered but could not. Such questions were making me doubt from time to time. Back in chapter one, Joseph had doubts about Mary and the baby that she was carrying until the angel of the Lord spoke to him. Then God involved Joseph in His works so that he would see the miracles with his own eyes. God asked him to name the baby Jesus. He asked Joseph to bring Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod. He also told him later on to return to Israel when it was safe to go back. By putting Joseph in the middle of all the events that are going on, God allowed Joseph to see the way God works. Joseph at this point is by no means doubtful anymore.
Do you feel that you are isolated and not know what's going on? Look for the star, find out where God is. Then join God in His parade. Get involved and see the miracles happen.