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"Star Words"

Artists through the ages have convinced us that the star that drew them was a show-stopper, but no one else seems to have paid it much attention. Only they travel from the East, leaving behind the safety and security of home.

“Starry Night Stars” by Epiphany Studios
“Starry Night Stars” by Epiphany Studios

Matthew 2:1-12

January 8, 2023

Dr. Todd R. Wright


Presbyterian poet Ann Weems once wrote,


“Into this silent night

as we make our weary way we know not where,

just when the night becomes its darkest

and we cannot see our path,

just then

is when the angels rush in, their hands full of stars.”[2]


I wonder if that is what the magi experienced?


Were their nights silent? Not just with the focused, solitary study of the night sky while others were sleeping, but the aloneness that comes with being out of step with everyone else, even the people who love you; and the restless that comes from searching for something that always seems to be over the horizon or around the corner, something that no one else is looking for.


Artists through the ages have convinced us that the star that drew them was a show-stopper, but no one else seems to have paid it much attention. Only they travel from the East, leaving behind the safety and security of home. Even the scholars that point them to Bethlehem, close their dusty books and go back to writing articles that will earn them tenure. Even Herod, who is threatened at the prospect of a rival king, doesn’t leave his throne.


So why do they follow this star?


Had all their study proved unsatisfying?


Was there some hole in their lives that the star promised to fill?


Did their curiosity drive them to chase the unusual, the unexplained, the novel?


Or were they convinced that it was a heavenly sign, a holy clue, a divine billboard?

 

We may never know their motivation, but Matthew is convinced he knows why. Just look at the words he uses associated with the star:


He says the star is able to be observed – by people who pay attention to small wonders;


He says they call it “his star” as if it, among millions, signals the birth of the King of the Jews;


he says they noticed it from the star’s rising, from the very start, when it burst into their lives;


and that it moved them to come, like the moon does the tides, so they could pay homage.


I’m going to pass a few baskets through the sanctuary. They contain other star words.[3] Take one and hold onto it. It is your word for the year. Receive it as a gift. Let God speak to you through it. Trust that God will. (If you are worshipping with us from home and would like us to send you a star word, just let us know and we will.)

 

We began with a poem. Let me end with part of one. It was written by Jan Richardson.


Maybe she is giving voice to the star that shone for the Magi; maybe it will speak to you.


“If you could see how this blessing shimmers inside you, you would never wonder whether there will be light enough, time enough, room enough for you.


If you could see the way this blessing has inscribed itself on every wall of your heart, writing its shining line across every doorway, tracing the edge of every window …


If you could, you would never question where home is, or whether it has a welcome for you.


This blessing wishes to give you a glimpse … to see what it sees, to know what it knows – how this blessing already blazes in you, illuminating every corner of your broken and beautiful heart.”[4]


Richardson never uses the work “star”, but she uses lots of related words: shimmer, shining, blazing, illuminating. May your star words bring God’s light to your journey! Amen


[1] “Starry Night Stars” by Epiphany Studios
[2] “Into This Silent Night” from Kneeling in Bethlehem
[3] see https://revgalblogpals.org/star-words/ for one take on this tradition
[4] From “Blessing the House of the Heart” in The Cure for Sorrow
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