Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Have you ever tried to count how many stars you can see? It was one of our favorite pastimes growing up on the farm. It’s hard to play that game today. Too many lower lights blocking our line of sight. Street lights, night lights, security lights, parking lot lights, huge billboard lights. These are all man-made lights. Coming home the other night, as we topped a hill overlooking town, Helen said, “It looks like a big city, doesn’t it?” I’ve heard pilots say that once they’re airborne and the ground lights have faded, the stars in the sky are as brilliant as sparkling diamonds.

But back home on Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina, there were no streets, just a dirt road. And no parking lots or billboards. So on a clear night, it seemed as though we could see a gazillion stars sparkling in the sky. But the game couldn’t start till somebody saw the first star. And since I liked to be first, I’d jump off the front porch, pointing to the twilight sky, and holler “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight.”  Sometimes Ollie or Wade, maybe Eddie or Wendell would accuse me of pointing at a lightnin’ bug. And sometimes they’d be right. But by the time the argument was settled, everybody really could see the first star.

Scientists say that with a good set of eyes, you can see about 5,000 stars. And some learned person has estimated that there are about 10 stars in the sky for every grain of sand on the earth. I’m not smart enough to count that high, but our country boy ‘rithmetic really got a good workout as the brothers tried to see how far we could count.

First, you start off counting by ones, then by fives and tens. When somebody gets more than you, it’s time to start counting by hundreds. I always liked to keep things lively, so I’d count by the millions. Before you knew it, somebody would challenge me. ‘You’re cheatin’. You can’t count by millions.’ And then I’d reply, ‘Oh yes, I can. Look out there over the pasture. I see 14-billion right there.’ No, you can’t. Yes, I can. If there were more than two children in your family, you know where this is headin’. Straight to the woodshed!

I always think about those games of First Star when I read Matthew’s account of how the out-of-town Wise Men came to Jerusalem looking for Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12). When they stopped to ask for directions (Helen says that’s why they’re called wise men!), they said they had come to worship the One who has been born King of the Jews because they had seen His star in the East.    

Well, that upset ol’ King Herod and all his smart people. They found out that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, so Herod sent the Wise Men on their way to that blessed little town. He told them to find Jesus and report back to him so he could worship Jesus, too. That was a big fat lie!

But the Wise Men didn’t get that name for nothing. They took off down the road. And the ‘star light, star bright, first star they had seen in the night’ led them and their camels right up to the house where they saw Mary and her two-year-old boy named Jesus.

I get a country boy grin on my face when I read verse 10. When the Wise Men saw the star stop over Jesus’ house, they were overjoyed! I used to feel a little bit like that when I hollered ‘first star I see tonight.’ But I can not imagine how the Magi must have felt in their hearts. But I do know what they did.  They bowed down and worshipped Jesus (verse 11) and gave Him some nice gifts. In fact, Matthew called them treasures. Jesus didn’t ask for their treasures. They gave them to Him because they were so happy to see Him! I wonder today if we’re that happy.

Once again, for the umpteenth time, we read a few days ago about the birth of the Babe in Bethlehem. And now, as our road of life heads down that super highway toward a new year, we also know what Jesus did for us thirty-three years after that night in the manger at Bethlehem.

That alone should be enough to make wise people out of all of us. Their hearts were filled to the brim and runnin’ over just from seein’ Him! How much more should we be grateful and worshipful for what He did for us that afternoon on Golgotha’s Hill. For that, He desires, deserves, and demands our best.

We might be runnin’ short on the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but He only asks for something a lot more valuable. Our heart. Where a man’s heart is, there also will be his treasure. As my friend, Bob Carnes, and I were discussing yesterday, we don’t know what the new year holds, but we do know who’s holding the new year. Matthew’s account says the Wise Men took a different road home after they had seen Jesus (verse 12). Could it be time for you and me to take a different road home to Him in 2010?

Right about here would be a good place for us all to sing out loud the chorus of the song about those Wise Men of old, written a long time ago by John H. Hopkins, Jr., but still so very appropriate today. Hum it if you don’t know the words.

O, Star of wonder, Star of night, Star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect Light.

And that ain’t no lightnin’ bug!