The following is this year’s Christmas Eve sermon. It is longer than a normal blog post, but not as long as a normal sermon. I did a lot of research into stars, and most of that material landed in the trash bin. But because I don’t want it to fully go to waste let me share two quick facts with you;
1- I placed the Bethlehem Star in the general vicinity of virgo, which seemed poetically correct, but I have no idea if it is true.
2- I was curious if stars could ‘talk’ to one another, and I found out that they do send out radio waves, which is good enough for me.
If you want to check out the whole Christmas Eve service, you can click here.
Tonight, I would like to tell you a story. It is a story about a wonderful person who goes by 13, 23, 53, -4, 14, 12. You probably don’t know them by that name, and I suppose saying that they are a wonderful person is misleading because they are not really a person. But just because they are not a person doesn’t mean they are not wonderful. The story I would like to tell you is about the Bethlehem Star, or Beth as she prefers to be called.
Before I go on there is something you need to know. Stars love shining their light and being seen. There are lots of complicated lessons in physics to help us understand how stars twinkle and shine. But the why of it is simple, it gives them great joy to be seen and admired.
I should also tell you, if you were to look into the sky tonight trying to find Beth, you won’t see her. Of the 9,096 stars that we can see on a clear, dark night Beth isn’t one of them. In truth that sort of bums her out. That fact actually makes Beth let’s say unique. Every other star in the sky, the ones we can see and the ones that we cannot see have always felt like they were living out their purpose in life.
They provided light and heat to the objects that surrounded them. They light up the night skies here, and on worlds we don’t have names for. They nudged comets, and planets here and there. They orbit, rotate and are happy. Beth enjoys all of those things, but there was a time when she couldn’t help shake the idea that she wasn’t quiet where she was supposed to be, she felt that there was more that she was called to do. She just didn’t know what it was.
Beth would talk about these feelings from time to time with her hero and role model the North star. The North Star is a strong confident star who always points people in the right direction. And the North Star is kind and friendly. She always encouraged Beth to dream big, but to also enjoy the life and tasks that she had been given. Beth appreciated the advice but hoped and prayed that one day she would be just like the North Star.
Because of this it was hard on Beth not to be noticed. She hated feeling invisible, and at times it seemed like she didn’t really matter. She was going through all the stellar motion but in truth her heart wasn’t always in it.
One day while Beth was considering what to do with an asteroid headed her way, she heard the rumour that God was about to do something new, something that no one in the universe had seen before, and something only a very few had expected. God himself would fully enter the universe, he would come to be a person, an infant no less.
Now Beth was hardly the newest star in the sky, she had been around for a while. But this sounded crazy to her! I mean she knew that God loved the whole universe, and that he had a special love for the people he created, but he always sort of interacted at a distance. I mean God was there for sure, but he would shift world events along behind the scenes, or he would interact with a few very select people, or maybe a show of a miracle now and then. But this, well this was so beyond anything she had ever heard of, and so beyond anything that she had ever imagined. It was wondrous, and strange. It was exciting, and kind of scary.
While she thought about what all of this would mean for the universe, in particular the people on earth she was hit by a sudden feeling of sadness. This was great and all for the people down on earth, and she supposed it was great for everyone who was handy earth but she was so far away. It didn’t really impact her, it didn’t really have anything to do with her.
Just as she was about to turn her attention back to that nearby asteroid another thought entered her mind, ‘what if people don’t notice God? What if they don’t see him, just like they don’t see me? I’m a star, and they can’t see my light because I am too far away far, but God is coming near is such a strange way, they might not even think to look. Or if they do they might not have any idea where to look!’
She talked with the other stars, and they all agreed it could be a real problem. The stars that knew the people the best said that many of them we busy, most rushed from here to there just getting through one day to the next. It would be easy for them to miss something even as spectacular as God coming into the world. Beth knew what to do. She would talk to the North Star! Surely, she could get everyone’s attention and help the people know about God’s great miracle.
But the North Star said she couldn’t help get the word out. The people knew her, trusted her, and even depended on her. But much like the Sun and the Moon she already carried a message to the people from God, she couldn’t tell the people anything new.
There Beth was filled with a mixed sense of determination, worry and purpose. She knew the message of God needed to get out, but she didn’t know what to do about it. Then and there she whispered a short but meaningful prayer, a prayer whispered by countless people aware of a problem that they don’t have a solution for. ‘I don’t know how I can help but here I am God, use me.’
With that something remarkable began to happen. The light the Beth was giving off began to get brighter, and brighter, and brighter still. Beth didn’t fully understand what was happening but within a few short moments the light that she was admitting became so bright that a 9097th star began to dance in the night sky, a tail beamed off it so much so it couldn’t be ignored. No star gazer on earth had ever seen anything like it. Everyone who looked into the sky saw Beth, few understood what she was trying to tell them. But the wise amongst us did, and began a journey to meet this new king, this son of man, this son of God, Emmanuel with us.
Once they discovered the baby, and the word began to spread Beth’s light returned to normal. However, those feelings of not being in the right place went away forever. Sure, she wasn’t seen by the people of earth anymore but we would never forget her. The change though was deeper than that. She felt her purpose had been met, and with that she felt more joy doing all her normal star activities.
Christmas is a wonderful time when we gather with friends and family. But perhaps you find yourself just going through the motions, doing life but not really feeling complete. And today you have paused to hear some about the Christmas story, but it can feel far away from you, to the point that you’re not sure if it really matters. Maybe you are here asking those big question in life, why am I here, and what is my purpose? I can’t answer those questions with individual precision for each of you tonight, but I can suggest an answer. We find our purpose in knowing and being known by God, and enjoying God forever. There is no better place to start that journey than here tonight thinking about the baby Jesus lying in a manger.