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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

Following Stars and Listening to God

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

I have been listening to Christmas carols. I went to an event last Friday and was handed a booklet of carols we would be singing. I immediately looked for the song, We Three Kings, but it wasn’t there. I was disappointed. It has been my favorite since childhood.

O star of wonder, star of night, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to thy perfect light.

Yes, the song, We Three Kings, has been my favorite since childhood. I have never been sure why. The melody is almost sad and haunting and hearkens back to the middle ages. It was written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. for a Christmas Pageant in 1857; and in original format, the three kings would each sing a verse. I seem to remember it being sung in parts. I knew every single word and I never feel like it is Christmas until I hear this song.

The journey of the Kings is an epic quest tale.

We three kings of Orient are;

Bearing gifts we traverse afar,

Field and fountain, moor and mountain,

Following yonder star

As a child, I had a fascination with quest stories. The Wizard of Oz was a quest. Pilgrim’s Progress was a quest. My life was a quest. I totally relate to the kings who followed a star. Fully knowing my story now, I understand I was on a quest to understand from the time I was a child. It has been so amazing to finally meet the children inside of me who simply would never give up until they reached their own star and handed me the gifts of understanding in each of their deeply hidden memories. It was an epic quest.

I can still see my young self standing in the rows of pews. I knew the song was mine as soon as the first few notes played. It was time to sing about the Kings who followed the star and found baby Jesus. I had been a baby once. I wondered if they would have adored me. Baby Jesus was a special gift given to the world, but wasn’t that true of every baby? Wasn’t that true of me?

Yes, maybe that was important to me, but this morning, I realized there was more. It wasn’t just that the Wisemen came and worshipped. They did something much more important than that. They listened to what God communicated in a dream and went home another way. They protected Jesus.

The story of how Herod killed the small children in search of Jesus is a tragic tale of those who have no regard for human life beyond their own broken desires for power. It is a part of the story that doesn’t fit with the warm and cozy Nativity scenes, but it is part of the human reality. It is a reality that lives out every day in our world.

In the midst of this sadness, there was a dream. God obviously wanted to protect Jesus, but I don’t believe that was the only child who God wanted to protect from the devious earthly vengeance of Herod the Great. What Herod said is chilling, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you have found him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

I really don’t like to make everything about my story, but for those who have ever been preyed upon as a child, the voice of Herod is exactly like those who should have been trusted but weren’t trustworthy. Herod made choices. He used his freewill for evil. God could not stop that, but was doing everything possible to protect Jesus—and I think the other children also. I believe God wept over the children that night. Why couldn’t they all be saved?

The more I understand the power of God, the more I understand that God’s work and plans depend on humans. Just like the Wisemen (who were very wise to pay attention to the dream) protected Jesus by going home another way, every child could have been saved if all humans were listening to God. Not that the parents of those caught unaware were responsible, but there was someone who could have stopped the carnage—and I am sure many were actually saved that night. The evil was so great that the entire human race would have needed to step in to stop it. This is still true today.

Still, one child was saved because the Wisemen listened and then Mary and Joseph listened. God didn’t ask the five of them to save all the children. They were asked to save one. I want to save all the children, but that is not possible. What I can do is help others understand how to help the children who have lived through darkness no child should ever know. The children cannot help themselves. They need the adults in their life to help them—just as Jesus did.

Last week, this endorsement for my book was sent to me. I cannot imagine anything more important in my journey than the first sentence. Being the voice for children is humbling.

“Janyne McConnaughey bravely becomes the voice for children who have experienced attachment wounding and trauma. I highly recommend this book for all professionals who work with children and adults that struggle with attachment and the far-reaching effects of childhood trauma. Not only does her book provide insight into the painful experience of trauma but helps the reader understand the ‘why’ behind the behavior of a hurting child. Janyne also boldly speaks hope, which is so desperately needed by those impacted by trauma and the hurt of disrupted attachment.”

–Heather C. Thompson, MS, LPC, Child and Family Therapist, A Safe Place to Grow Counseling

The Christmas story is about a small child. It is so easy to miss the human component. It is easy to miss the fact that God asks us to do more than worship. Worship is a two-way experience that also involves listening and action. I wonder if I, as a child, understood that the Wisemen had protected Jesus? It is completely possible. The more I understand about myself as a child, the more I believe this is possible. I probably had my own verse in my head.

We Three Kings have come from afar

Following God, our guide is a star

We bring our gifts and listen to dreams

Things are not at all what they seem

Listening to the voice that guides us

We protect the life of young-child Jesus

That small child inside of me still believes that adults hold the power to protect children. Join me on this mission to protect and heal children. Watch for a child who needs protection. Listen for God to speak and guide you. You have no idea who you might be helping to live out a life God meant only for good. We really can change the world—one child at a time.

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