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Reflection January 14, 2018
"The Star Still Shines" by: Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
When we look at the Christmas Tableaux most of us identify with one or more of the various “actors” involved in the Christmas accounts. Mothers may well identify with Mary. Fathers may well identify with Joseph. Most of us don’t identify with King Herod. I, for one, identify with the Magi.
The Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the journey of those who seek God; the feast of those who find God because they seek God. We are all “God-seekers.” God, and only God, is the ultimate goal of our seeking, our pilgrimage of faith. To seek God is the primary reason why we are here - why we exist in the first place.
And we should know that we have help on our journey. We could not search for God; we could not seek God, if God was not, at the same time, searching for us, seeking us. We seek God because - first and foremost - God seeks us.
God is not indifferent to us. If God were indifferent to us, there would be no Jesus, no Christ, no Redeemer. Yet God remains an “infinite enigma” to us (to use the words of the theologian Karl Rahner).
There is but one major theme, one dominant message, repeated again and again through the pages of our Sacred Scriptures. And what is this one major theme? What is this one dominant message?
Simply put, the Bible can be summed up thusly: God can be found by those who seek God. God really can be found, even though, we are all, every human, hopelessly lost.
Yet our hearts can reach out to God’s heart. Our souls can cry out to God’s soul. Amazingly, our hearts can reach God’s heart. Amazingly, our souls can find God’s soul.
Without God, we exist in a barren emptiness, a vast cosmic void. Without God, nothing makes sense. Without God nothing can satisfy our deepest desires, our deepest hungers.
If we seek God in all sincerity, if we search for God with guileless hearts, we will find the One whom we seek. This is what the Scriptures promise. This is what the prophets promise. This is what the Gospels promise. This is what Christ promises. This is what our brother Paul promises. This is what I promise, unworthy and confused though I be.
It was early Christmas morning, 1959, as I was walking home alone from the Christmas midnight service that God came to me in a powerful way. My father had died that previous May and I was feeling lost and fatherless in an alien and hostile world. God came and filled my heart in a way that has never left me. I understood clearly that much of what I’d been taught about God was wrong.
God was not keeping track of my sins. God was not adding up the numerous times my brothers and I fought. God was not going to punish me in any way. God loved me and wanted me to love in return. God was not a grumpy curmudgeon. God was a gentle Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.
Our hearts and our souls will lead us and guide us. Mostly, I’ve found, it’s a matter of our hearts. Our hearts are deeply important in our search for God. Our hearts serve as shining stars in the dark of our night sky.
The importance of our hearts is pointed out in one of the heart transplant stories found in Dr. Paul Pearsall’s “The Heart’s Code” (1998). A low-brow, racist, white man received a heart transplant. His behavior began to change. He began to be more tolerant of people of color. He began to be deeply interested in classical music, which he had shown no interest in previously.
The heart he had been given was the heart of a young African American male who was shot walking to school. The young man had been a violinist and was very involved in classical music. Hearts matter!
We’re called to bring our gifts to the Christ Child. The magi were certainly filled with a certain chutzpah. They come to King Herod and ask: where can we find your replacement - the new King of Israel?
Herod was decidedly shaken. He lived in the spotlight. He had no desire to give up the spotlight. But, of course, this is a wide-spread problem. Those who bask in the spotlight don’t want to give it up. But that is what we who are aged must do. We must allow the young to take their rightful place on center stage. We elders need to exit, to disappear, as quietly as did the magi.
We pilgrimage TOGETHER to God. We need traveling companions on this journey. It’s too hard and dangerous to travel alone. Yet the star still shines, the star still beckons us, as it did the magi so long ago.
We need brave hearts, wide-open hearts; not the narrow hearts our sullen and god-forsaken society fashions for us. We’re trapped in a society where our stars are merely celebrities, not at all worth pursuing.
Our hearts must stir us. Our hearts must set out. It will help to be well-versed in good and holy works. We need to be in touch with the heart that still trusts as did our hearts when we first came to rejoice in Christmas and the Christmas Star.
Let us trust our hearts. Let us trust our God. Let us trust our Redeemer. The star still shines, pointing the way to the holiness and the awesome, over-whelming love of our God.
The Chicago theologian Jack Shea writes thusly in “Starlight”: “We live in a time of universal dialogue, where all religious traditions are learning who they are by learning who the stranger (in our midst) is. No wonder the magi came from the East to bring us news of what is being born in our midst.
“To honor this way of (Biblical) imagination, I must tell you that Melchior’s name was really Melissa and that it was changed not merely because of male chauvinism but because of the strange gift that she brought to the Christ Child ...”
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Interim Pastor
Rev. Millie Myren, Support Minister