“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’
“When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born… Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’
“When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
“On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road” (Matthew 2:1-4, 8-12, NRSV).
Happy Epiphany! I love the story about the star. That great star announces the birth of the Christ child. That star lights and guides the way for these magi from the east. And that star stops right above where baby Jesus is sleeping. I am grateful for that star.
Every year at the end of the 12 days of Christmas we celebrate the conclusion of this great season with Epiphany. And in the tradition I am a part of the Biblical story that is connected to Epiphany is the story of the star. The star, as I said above, reveals where the Christ child is and who he is as the newborn king. The star reveals that to us, giving us an epiphany!
The star should do that to us, don’t you think? The star should change us. The magi (or kings or sages or wise men or whatever you’ve learned to call them), upon seeing the star, became so overjoyed, fell to their knees in worship and homage, and shared incredible and important gifts with Jesus. Shouldn’t we be drawn to do the same thing?
Notice, too, that the realization that came with the star also changed the way they traveled home, meaning the future they had planned was not the future they experienced after seeing the star. Shouldn’t encountering God in the flesh, just as we do each and every Christmas, bring us joy, lead us to worship, cause us to give gifts of ourselves, and set us on a different course forward? I certainly would think so. And I’d certainly hope so, too.
So this year, on Epiphany, I gave my church an assignment. We handed out stars – cut out of paper and completely blank – to each person. I told our church that each person was to take that blank star and think of a word that could be written on it. And I wanted the word on that star to change your future.
For example: I found that the word “hospitality” spoke to me this year, so I put that word on my star. And over the course of the coming weeks and months I hope to let that word shape who I am. I’ll ask myself, “How can I show hospitality? How has hospitality been shown to me? How can hospitality connect me to those who are different from me? How has God shown hospitality: in the Bible, to those around me, and to me? How might the word ‘hospitality’ open me to new possibilities or opportunities this coming year?”
That’s only one example. Your word could be any word: practice, mercy, grace, forgiveness, opportunity, rest, pleasure, integrity, compassion, kindness, patience…
Interested? Maybe you can find a piece of paper and cut out the shape of a star. And then spend some time thinking about what word might shape you this year. Or, have someone else pick one for you, or send our church a Facebook message and we’ll give you your own word. Then spend some time this year seeing how that word can shape your prayer life, your faith life, and your everyday life.
Make it your “Star Word” for 2016, kind of like a New Year’s resolution, but more like your very own epiphany – seeing what God will reveal to you and how your future could be different.
Shouldn’t the star do that to you?