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Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12 Star Light, Star Bright 1 7 18

Star light, star bright, First star I see tonight,


I wish I may, I wish I might, Have this wish I wish tonight.
A wish is fleeting. It is a wish I have tonight, that will most likely be
different tomorrow. A wish is magical and childlike. A wish suspends reality and
awakens the imagination. When it’s your birthday you have to “quick, make a
wish before you blow out the candles!” Then don’t tell anyone what you wished
or it won’t come true. Wishing has elements of superstition and fancy. We don’t
think of wishing in the context of community, as we might think of prayer; it tends
to be self-focused, free-floating and disconnected.
The people who ultimately came to see Jesus weren’t wishing for a Messiah
or king, they were studying - intently studying the skies. They had been searching
the stars already, not wishing on them – ready and willing to recognize a sign of
something new. These astrologers were observers of the world. Therefore, they
didn’t miss a new, rising star when it appeared. Their intentionality about
knowing their surroundings wired them to pay attention to changes. Apparently
when the star rose at the time of Jesus’ birth, it was like a cosmic shift occurred.
There was a celestial demonstration of an earthly event – the birth of a child that
had far-reaching influence. The study of the ordinary revealed the extraordinary.
Today, for the third year in a row, we are receiving Star Words. When you
come up for communion, you will take a card from the plate in the center aisle.
The word will be something ordinary like curiosity, joy, patience or resilience. Its
purpose is to provide a touch-point throughout the year, to tune into the ordinary
things of life, and open us to the extraordinary that might rise up along the
journey of faith. Going along this year-long journey with your Star Word may not

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lead you to an actual new land, but it may bring you closer to seeing something
new.
The astrologers in Jesus’ time were led to an actual new land. They came
to Jerusalem to share their insight that the new star was a sign of the rise of a
new leader – a King of the Jews – even though Herod already had the title of King
of the entire area. Their report in Jerusalem was not well received, to put it
mildly. To say that there was a new king in the offing was a risk to King Herod
and the status quo. Even those who didn’t like the sitting King knew that
someone challenging the throne was not good news.
Rev. James Howell called Herod “history’s most hysterical megalomaniac.”
[note that Howell made that comment in 2008. Just saying.] Andover Newton
Dean, William Herzog, called Herod a despot with an appetite for power, prone to
disquiet. Herzog also wrote, “Historically, when Herod was frightened, people
died. His paranoia led to more and more extreme actions as he tried to secure his
throne from all threats… [P]erceiving an opportunity to eliminate another
claimant to his throne, Herod tried to turn the magi into his emissaries by holding
a secret meeting to enlist their help.”1 Oddly enough, Herod knew what would
resonate with the astrologers on this quest. Herod said to them, “search
diligently for the child.”
The magi knew diligence. They knew what it meant to focus and work
single-mindedly toward a goal. They had already studied diligently and opened
themselves to information and insight. This was possible because they studied
what was ordinary. They immersed themselves in the patterns and predictability
of the skies. Their persistence and constant attention through the years reaped

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Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 1, 2008.

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results. When they saw a new star, they were more than willing to seek
confirmation of what they learned from the sky, by finding the child on earth.
You and I are likely to have a deeper encounter with Christ if we are seeking
it diligently. We are more likely to have an epiphany, or an aha moment, if we
have been studying what is ordinary, so we can recognize the extraordinary. I’m
hoping (not wishing) that your Star Word will be that kind of a bridge for you, just
as the stars in the sky were a bridge for the magi. By studying and living with an
ordinary word on your desk or taped to your mirror or dashboard, you are more
likely to see what is extraordinary when it emerges.
Keep in mind that it is not just the studying that makes one wise. The
scribes and priests in Jerusalem had been studying scriptures, but they were not
moved to go anywhere. They knew the prophecy of the Messiah to be born in
Bethlehem, but even when they received additional information about the rising
star in the sky, they did not travel to see the child. They were not willing to take a
new path or to receive new wisdom. In contrast, the astrologers/ the magi
acknowledged up front that there was more to learn. They went to Bethlehem,
seeking new insight and knowledge. They persevered in order to encounter the
extraordinary.
Mary Greene shared a poem with the Bible Study group. It is a poem of
blessing by Jan Richardson, written this year, about following a different star.
The Map Our Dreaming Makes
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas

I cannot tell you


how far I have come
to give this blessing
to you.

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No map
for the distance crossed,
no measure
for the terrain behind,
no calendar
for marking
the passage of time
while I traveled a road
I knew not.

For now, let us say


I had to come by
a different star
than the one
I first followed,
had to navigate by
another dream
than the one
I loved the most.

But I tell you


that even here,
the hope

that each star belongs


to a light
more ancient still,

and each dream


part of the way
that lies beneath
this way,

and each day


drawing us closer
to the day
when every path
will converge

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and we will see the map
our dreaming made,
luminous in every line
that finally led us
home.

—Jan Richardson, 2018


When we come to the communion table, whether led by a familiar or a new
star, we see, taste and smell the ordinary elements of bread and juice. These
were familiar sensations to Jesus and the disciples as well. The words and actions
Jesus added to the meal made the ordinary extraordinary. When we remember
his words we become part of the extraordinary thing that God is doing in our
midst.
Come to the table, open, diligent, ready to follow where you are being led.
Amen.

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Isaiah 60:1-6
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon
you. 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. Nations shall
come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 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. Then
you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the
abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall
come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian
and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and
frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

Matthew 2:1-12
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. They told him, “In
Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you,
Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod
secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the
star had appeared. 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.