After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?
We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
One frigid January evening, just about twenty years ago, my elementary-aged sons had the opportunity to look at outer space through a telescope. A meteorologist from WCCO radio set up his high-tech equipment in the snowy church courtyard where my guys attended Montessori school, and I was a teacher. Families bundled in layers gathered with anticipation, kids making the most of their nighttime recess, parents chatting in clusters, stomping booted feet. We watched as our weatherman guide made adjustments to his scope, pointing his giant lens this way and that, but to no avail. The evening sky was cloudy, the hoped-for views just out of sight. Eventually families took refuge in the heated building, enjoying cookies and cocoa while holding out hope for the clouds to break. But it didn’t look promising. While the forecast teased us with potential clear skies, mamas were thinking about frostbite and bedtime, and eventually our restless group had to admit defeat. We wandered, disappointed, back to our minivans and began the process of wrangling snowsuit-clad kiddos into carseats. Which is when it happened. My firstborn—never one to settle for an L when there’s time left on the clock—made his way through the church parking lot with an eye on the sky. And while a string of vehicles snaked their way to the exit, we saw Grant turn on a dime, high-tailing it back to the courtyard with a shouted explanation. “It’s clear!!”
He was right. As our family and one other raced toward him, our meteorologist friend greeted us with a grin. “I was hoping someone would see it.” A minute or two later he was ready to show us our prize. Clear as crystal and utterly brilliant—a fully ringed Saturn in perfect sight.
To this day I can feel the awe of that experience. Unexpected. Naively participating with my kids in a science experiment; no idea what I’d really observe looking through that lens. And then. The shock of seeing it. Real. Exquisite. So far away and yet my eye was beholding this thing only God could have created. An authentic moment of utter worship.
Of course this experience was the first thing that came to mind, yesterday driving to and from a baby shower, listening to an interview on my favorite podcast. It was an unusual episode. Tim and Jon of BibleProject were taking a break from their usual bible-nerd content to interview a BP follower who just happens to be an astronaut. An articulate young woman named Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, who spends time on space stations in her work for NASA. And what she describes is breathtaking. I won’t attempt to recap, but will leave it up to you to take a listen. Except to give you this teaser. When Tracy tells about tear-bubbles of worship clouding her view of the stars in zero-gravity—my own tears drip in shared awe of our galaxy-creating, magnificent God.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.