Gathering Time and Star Gift Reflections
Epiphany – January 7, 2018

– Anne Ellis

It is two weeks since Christmas Day. This is the season of Christmas. The season of Christmas lasts 12 days. Sometimes we sing a song about all the gifts a true love gives to someone during the 12 days.

This is the baby Jesus, born in a barn, to poor parents. He is a gift to us. Perhaps the best gift.

When we tell the story of Jesus’ birth at Christmas we usually tell the whole story from the Angel telling Mary and Joseph they will have a special baby, to the family traveling to Bethlehem, to Jesus being born, to the angels and the shepherds coming to see the baby and finally to the Magi coming because of a Star they saw in the sky.

We tell the story as if it all happened at once. But of course that isn’t true. It takes a long time for a baby to grow in the womb. It would take many days to travel by foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It might have been a few days before the angels and the shepherds came.

And it would have taken many days, maybe even weeks or months for the Magi to travel from the far away east and find the baby under the strange and wild star, that didn’t act like an ordinary star.

So we, here in the church, make Christmas a season, 12 days from Christmas Day to Jan 6th – Epiphany, the day we celebrate the Magi’s arrival.

The Magi followed a star; a sign from God that something miraculous had happened. Something amazing and surprising. That is what the word Epiphany means – an amazing and sometimes startling surprise.

Imagine the surprise of the Magi, who were looking for a king, someone majestic, perhaps someone wealthy and resplendent in robes of purple, with many jewels and riches.

And what they found was a baby, born in a barn, to poor parents with no robes of purple or jewels, just swaddling rags and a feed trough for a bed.

A star had shown them the way, that this baby was a gift from God, so somehow they had to figure out what it meant. This unexpected, and perhaps a little confusing gift.

The Magi were very wise, they knew many things, and came to understand that God is a mystery and this gift from God and the stars was the greatest mystery of all. A baby born in a barn, to poor parents, who would one day be a great king.

Last year, here at the church we celebrated the arrival of the Magi and the gift from the stars – with our own Star Gifts. Many of us received paper stars with words on them. Our invitation was to consider the word on our star as a gift from God – something to prayer over, to think about, to practice.

Some people got words they didn’t like, or didn’t understand. Their word was confusing and took them a long time to understand. Perhaps some people forgot about their stars the moment they walked out of the building, or lost their star somewhere along the way home. That’s ok, it happens.

Some people got words they liked and knew their meaning the moment they read the words. Some people put their star on their fridge, or hung it on their wall, or taped it inside a notebook; kept their star near the whole year.

When I got my star a year ago I was trying to decide if I was going to go on a trip to Israel and Palestine. I wanted to go, but I was also afraid. Everyone said the Middle East was a dangerous place to go. I was worried my family wouldn’t want me to go someplace unsafe, I was worried it would cost a lot of money we didn’t have. I worried I’d be homesick and miss my cats.

But my family said – sure, go. It’s not as dangerous as you think. Work said – sure go, you can miss work and maybe we can find a way to help you cover some of the costs. My cats said – well they didn’t say anything, because they’re cats.

I was running out is excuses and reasons to say no.

This is my star gift. It says Travel.

When I got my star, I knew without any more doubt that I needed to say yes to going to Israel and Palestine. I’d like to say I was no longer afraid, but that’s not true. I was still afraid, but less so.

I took this star with me though.

There are some other people who are going to share their stories from their gifts last year. And later we’re all going to get new Star gifts for 2018.