The Star of Bethlehem

What a privilege that the Star of Bethlehem has chosen us as His vessels from which He can shine, eclipsing our own feeble efforts as a channel of His love and grace.

Sally Lam-­Phoon is the Shepherdess, education and women's ministries director for the Southeast Union Mission in Singapore.

I took many months to locate just the right star to adorn the top of our Christmas tree. The star was golden, had the right length and breadth to it, and above all fit my limited budget. I tied it to the little pointed branch at the crown of our six-foot tree. To secure the star to this topmost branch, I wound twine 'round and 'round until the branch was hidden. The tree was now perfect, a most beautiful sight, a symbol of the season of giving and goodwill.

Christmas trees, be they fir or spruce, are always pointed at the top, and without an ornament right at the pinnacle, the tree looks incomplete. But why are Christmas trees pointed? I guess God made them that way.

In the forests where Christmas trees abound, each tree has to reach for the sky and strive to keep its topmost branches in the sunlight, its source of life. Therefore, at the end of winter and the beginning of spring, a new shoot forms at the top of each tree. This shoot holds the potential for a tree's growth and survival. Each new shoot is made up of five points, with the middle point assuming its leadership position as "king." This position brings with it the responsibility of drawing nutrients from its roots deep in the ground, as well as reaching for the life-giving properties of the sun. This leader has only one focus: to ensure that the whole tree survives. So long as the king pointer is alive, it silently and unassumingly carries out a solemn duty. It concentrates on its commitment, doing daily what the Creator intended for it to do.

What a vital lesson in Christian leadership! In all its simplicity, this function of the king pointer reminds Christian leaders of the significance of digging deep into the study of the Word of God and reaching daily for the Sun of Righteousness, knowing full well that we draw life and light for our souls through Him.

And when its work is done and life is over, the king pointer quietly fades away. God designed these trees so that one of the other pointers will move into position and assume the role as king---and the tree is assured of its continual survival. There is no scrambling, elbowing, and fighting for control; the changing of the guard is uneventful and seamless.

When leadership is viewed as responsibility—responsibility for carrying out the will of God—it does not matter who is leader. Often in human relationships and expectations, leadership is equated with power and self-glory. The concept of how Christ emptied Himself is foreign to the citizens of Planet Earth. When we catch a glimpse of how we can empty ourselves and allow God to work through us by His Spirit, "peace on earth" will be within our reach. The unity the apostle Paul talked about can he achieved when Christians begin to see that leadership is not a position, but a duty.

It is not something we should spend our time and energy lobbying for. If it comes our way, then joyfully carry that responsibility; if it doesn't, uphold and bolster the courage of the leader as Christ would if He were on earth. Then we can truly "grow up into him... From him the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Ephesians 4:15, 16).

For me, that pointer at the top came in useful as an anchor for my tree-topper—my shining star. It held the star in place. The king pointer, almost completely hidden from sight amid the twine, gave all its glory to that star. Likewise, as Christian leaders, all that we do is "to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:14).

It is not position that calls us to do God's work. It is not for our own self-realization or self-fulfillment. It is a call to do His bidding and to show forth His glory. What a privilege that the Star of Bethlehem has chosen us as His vessels from which He can shine, eclipsing our own feeble efforts as a channel of His love and grace.