60 Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2 For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
3 Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
4 Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
5 Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
In Epiphany we tell the story of the Wise Ones following the star to find the place where the Christ Child was born. As we move into 2021, we are all hoping and praying COVID-19 will relent, and we will be able gather, to hug our friends and lift our voices in grateful praise as we navigate this new post-pandemic world. The idea of following the light in the darkness to a new beginning is appealing! In our congregation, we are looking to 2021 as our year of becoming who God needs us to be in the world - more creative, focused, flexible, and faithful.
To guide each of us on this journey, we are joining congregations and Christians around in the world in the practice of giving “star words” at Epiphany. You will all receive a word, and we challenge you to consider this word, use it as a touchstone and a point of learning and growth for 2021. Place it in your wallet, pin it a board or tuck it in your desk drawer, tape it to your bathroom mirror or prop it on your mantle. Consider how this word might be guiding you, challenging you, encouraging you. How it this word helping you to become who God is calling you to be? We’re going to ask you about it and give you space to reflect on your star-word and star-ward journey.
As more an more folks embrace this spiritual practice, we have star-word stories to share. One man received the word “evangelism” and has had to consider how he shares the good news in his life. A mother received “flexibility” which encouraged her as she raised her children. “Discipline” inspired a runner as she strove to get stronger. She also became more disciplined in her prayer life by beginning each run with a prayer, which was a new practice to her. A worship committee chair received the word “craft” and wrestled with how God was re-imagining and re-working worship in his congregation.
I’ve led this practice for a number of years, but I’ll always remember the first star-word I ever received: “Hope.” It was my first year at my (then new) call in Greensboro. I was depressed about leaving Ohio and discouraged about the church. The church finances weren’t looking great and despite the long hours I was investing to energize worship and make it accessible for all ages, Grace was the only child in the sanctuary. I really needed that hope. It wasn't long after that Epiphany service that things started turning around. I made some friends, more kids and families started coming to church, we found money in our church financial audit (praise God!) Over the years, I received other star-words that helped me on my journey – balance comes to mind – but I hold on to that hope. In fact, that star is STILL in my office drawer at First Presbyterian Church in Greenville.
In your January newsletter you will find enough stars hand-lettered with unique words for each member of your household. We prayed that God would be guiding each star-word to its intended recipient. We didn’t choose these star-words for you, but we trust that God will work through this gift.
These words are not intended to replace the word of God in ordering our lives, or be seen as magical. They are intended to offer a lens to guide us on our faith journeys.
We hope the Holy Spirit will be at work in you through your word, helping you to experience Christ in new ways for the year. Following the star leads us to unexpected places – just as the wise ones did not expect to find a baby, may we also be surprised, delighted, encouraged and challenged.