It’s Christmas, and we’ve been hearing about the star of Bethlehem for a few weeks now. This past Sunday, the liturgy celebrated the arrival of the Magi at the manger to worship the Newborn King after having followed the star for two years over rough and unknown terrain. Tomorrow is the Feast of Epiphany according to the calendar date and we’re reminded that we, too, are called to follow the star – to traverse the terrain God lays before us on our journey to the King.
We’ve been following a different kind of star at the Fenelon Clan Abode. We’ve been following a service star. It hangs in our front porch window, letting passersby know that we’re awaiting the return of a family member in the military. In this case, it’s our son. He’s been gone for a year in the Middle East with the Army National Guard.
Today we’ll be taking the star down, as Matt’s returning from his deployment. Like the Magi, we’ve reached our destination after traversing rough terrain. And also like the Magi, we are rejoicing at finally being face-to-face with the one whom we seek. We’re beside ourselves with joy and gratitude.
But there’s a part of me that is very, very sad. I’m sad for all the mothers who still have sons overseas, for all the mothers who will have sons overseas. The conflict in Iraq isn’t settled yet and the war in Afghanistan is just heating up. It will be ugly. Our son is home, relatively unscathed and ready to resume his civilian life. Many other sons won’t come home at all. Their mothers will receive a folded flag rather than a hug and a kiss. They won’t hear the words, “I love you, Mom” again from their sons. I’ll hear it countless times from mine.
So, as I remove the service star from the window today, I’ll say a prayer of thanksgiving for the safe return of my son and a prayer of petition for all the mothers out there grieving for their sons, whether they be separated by distance or Eternity. I’ll say a prayer for the mothers who will grieve in the future, too.
I invite you to do the same, not just today but as often as you think of it. The simplest prayer can have the most profound effects. We can agree or disagree about what’s going on in the world’s military arenas, but there’s no debating the power of prayer. Pray for our men and women in uniform and the families they leave behind. They, too, are traversing rough terrain, longing to be face-to-face with the one they seek.