When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Who knows how long they journeyed or at what cost they presented those gifts to Jesus.
This reminds me of Jesus’ parables describing the discovery of the Kingdom of God.
A merchant who finds the finest pearl and sells everything to buy it. A man who sells all to purchase a previously hidden treasure.
This kind of radical response is not some reckless declaration like a January resolution that fades into sheepish resignation by March.
It involves the explosive joy of discovering something precious, rare, and unexpectedly good.
But this first joy of the Good News, the Ah-Ha moment of epiphany, a sudden awareness of Christ’s presence, the warmth of encouragement from a friend, the often fleeting moment of feeling fully alive—will fade in intensity and sometimes be purposely buried under a dirty mound of cast off hopes, acute sorrows, and disappointments.
Do not harden your hearts. This is a theme repeated throughout Scripture—to the Israelites in the desert, the fate of one of the seeds in Jesus’ sower parable, to the audience intended for the book of Hebrews.
The disciples had just seen Jesus feed the 5000 in Mark’s account, but when they were terrified and saw Jesus walking on the sea in the midst of the storm, they were still shocked for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened ( 6:52).
Hearts can harden for any number of reasons, but hardening against hope, expectation, and joy is a surefire way to miss recognizing Jesus passing next to your boat.
Sometimes I feel the Siren call of cynicism, resignation, and half-hearted engagement so strongly in this complicated world that I can strangely identify with Ulysses strapped to the ship’s mast as he passed the Sirens.
The Sirens sound beautiful and appealing—but their promises are illusory.
“Strap me tighter!” I call to my friends around me. “Don’t let me escape! My very humanity is at stake!”
But this theme of ‘hardening your heart’ in Scripture is tied to another theme: Remembering.
When the intensity of experience fades into memory—remembering becomes an active discipline in which we take those experiential moments into the present so that we can orient ourselves to the future.
In other words, in order to not harden our hearts, we must do what other writers, poets, and artists have depicted: remember forward.
And what better time to practice this discipline then in the cold winter of a January day, where the radiant whiteness of new snow is juxtaposed upon a natural world that is stripped down and dead—awaiting Spring’s promise.
When we are living with a hardened heart of deadened desire, we will miss those small hues which are the difference between a life’s painting in black and white and one painted in both brilliant and subtle shades of color.