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.”- Matthew 2:1-2
The first story in Matthew, following the Birth of Christ, is the story of the Wise Men visiting Jesus. History tells us that these men were not kings, like a certain Christmas song would have us believe, but were astrologers from the Kingdom of Persia. They were men in the service of the King of Persia whose job was to look to the stars for signs and interpret them. One day, they saw a bright star that told of the birth of a King greater than any earthly king, and they set out in search for Him.
When they reached the land of the Jews, they went to the best place they thought someone of such a high station would be, the palace of the King. But the King of the Jews wasn’t in a palace. They met Herod who consulted with his high priests and he told the Magi, these Wise Men, that they would find the one they were looking for in Bethlehem. The Magi went to the grandest house in all of Judea in search for the King of the Jews, and instead they find him in a manger, with the cattle, living in a rough place even by ancient standards.
I know that this is a Christmas story and we are in the midst of Lent, a time when we are remembering Christ’s ministry, death and resurrection, not His birth. But this story has a lot to say to us even outside of the context of Christmas. Because even today we go looking for God and find Him in the places we least expect. We can search in the grandest churches, the halls of power, the most ivory of towers, but sometimes we find God ever-present in the midst of the mud and the muck, in the faces of the downtrodden and in the struggles of the oppressed.
This past Sunday in Selma, Alabama, we as a country remembered the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Sunday when organizers who planned a protest march from Selma to Montgomery were attacked by state troopers, county police, and men on horseback which lead to the hospitalization of at least 17 protesters. Following this attack, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called on all people of faith, from all across the country to leave their churches, leave their neighborhoods, leave their relative safety, and to come and join the marchers in the fight for equality. Several hundred clergy and some 4,000 people of faith heard that call and marched with Dr. King two weeks later.
If you look for God in anything, you can find Him, but sometimes it takes stepping out or your comfort zone or venturing to places where you think God could never be to fully understand the love of God, the strength of God, and the power of God through other people.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel later said of his experience, “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” When we search for God in those dark places, in those places crowded with hatred and fear, we find that we begin to pray with our feet, that every step and every breath becomes a prayer that draws us closer to God. God is everywhere, sometimes it just takes us stepping out into the ugly parts of the world to see the God that is revealed to us through Jesus Christ.