A Star’s Tale

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.

Holy Saturday- What Do You Do When Nothing Is Happening?

Is there such a thing as Holy Saturday? Good Friday has come and gone. Jesus was arrested, tired, crucified, has died and is buried. Easter Sunday is a whole day away. So where does that leave us on the Saturday of Holy week? Do we just skip over this day entirely and go about our normal lives until Sunday?

You could, but if do you’ll miss a lot. Let’s put ourselves into the sandals of the first disciples, on that first Holy Saturday. What are they doing?

Before I tell you that, first let me tell you what they are not doing.

They are not holding any candlelight prayer vigils. As far as they know they have nothing left to watch over. Their master is dead and buried.

They also are not telling each other that everything will be alright, that this was all part of the plan. Because it wasn’t, at least not their plans. Their plans required Jesus to be very much alive, and crowned king of Jerusalem.

On that first Holy Saturday there was no hope, no comfort, and no sense that anything would get better. The shock and numbness of Friday begin dissipate the pain and sorrow of Saturday began to set in. On that first Holy Saturday those who had followed Jesus were simply wondering ‘now what’?

I can honestly say I have felt trapped in a Holy Saturday moment before. Times where I look for action, but I find stillness. Where I search for answers but I find silence. Where I look for comfort but I only see more cold hard reality. I have lived months of such Holy Saturdays, and I suspect that I am not alone.

I think we have all found our way to Saturday moments like this. Moments when we realize everything we counted on, everything we dreamed about everything we hoped for has crumbled. Moments when the heavens are silent, our enemies are celebrating, and the whole world just seems dark and cold.

What do we do on such Saturdays, or Saturmonths, or Saturyears, or Saturlifetimes? The disciples had no idea that by days end on Sunday most of them would see Jesus alive again. They had no idea that their sadness was about to be overturned.

This is something that can give us courage and strength. Because likewise we do not know when Sunday will dawn and our Saturday will end. Maybe we just have to hang in for a few more days. Or maybe we have to hang in for the rest of our lives.

Either way the promise of God is the same, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

Please don’t think that I am making light of your pain. I am not. I don’t pretend to know what hurts you carry or for how long you have had to carry them. All I know is you will not have to carry them for eternity.

On that first Holy Saturday God appeared silent, and Jesus appeared defeated. But it only appeared to be that way. Much was happening behind the scenes. Right now as we each carry our own hurts and scars we can take comfort in knowing that much is happening behind the scenes.

Even though it is Saturday now, Sunday is on the way.

Holy Saturday

Holy Week- Good Friday- Whats So Good About It?

Today we have reached Good Friday. A dark and hard day to be sure. A day of suffering, a day of pain, a day of death. Justice is abused. Goodness disregarded. Courage evaporates. Friendship fails. Tears and blood are shed. It seems like sin, sadness and death have won. The light of the world was snuffed out.

Given all of this, have you ever wondered why we call today ‘Good Friday’?

Let me ask you a question; how do you describe what happened to Jesus today? Did Jesus die? Was Jesus murdered? Did Jesus sacrifice himself?

Perhaps when you read the words; die, murdered, and sacrifice you think ‘what’s the difference? Couldn’t I say all of these things happened, aren’t those words in this situation more or less synonyms?’ 

In one sense yes you could say all of those words describe what happened to Jesus. Only a very few serious historians deny that Jesus died on Good Friday. However I have found that when tragedy happens people don’t only want to know what happened they want to know why it happened.

Which leaves us with two other descriptors, murder and sacrifice. So is murder the best descriptor for what happened to Jesus or is sacrifice?

At first glance murder has a lot going for it. Jesus was arrested at night by a mob, changed with false allegations, dragged through a kangaroo court, and then put to death. When we examine what the motivation behind these horrendous acts was we find they are motivated by fear and jealousy. Many of the religious leaders of the day were jealous of the crowds that were following Jesus. While others seemed to be legitimately afraid of what Rome might do if they though Jesus was amassing followers to stage a revolt.

The religious leaders feared Jesus would lead the people away from them. Which made them fear that Rome would see Jesus’ followers as a threat and send in the troops. Herod feared for his kingdom. And Pilate feared the mob of people calling for Jesus to be put to death. A case could be made that jealousy, and fear prompted a handful of men to have Jesus murdered.

Except for one thing.

Jesus made it clear that while it seemed like others had power over him, it only seemed that way. No one could ‘put him to death’ without his permission.

This statement of Jesus moves us away from the vocabulary of murder and moves us into the vocabulary of sacrifice. When you scan the New Testament you will find that the language of a willing sacrifice is very prominent, whereas the language of murder is not.

Jesus’ own words make this point even clearer, ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.’

Death and sin, pain and suffering, didn’t win on Good Friday, only to have their victory overturned on Easter. Death and sin, pain and suffering, became tools of salvation in God’s hands. When people thought they were bringing destruction, defeating Jesus they really were bringing salvation, completing Jesus’ mission on earth.

Today is Good Friday because when Jesus sacrificed himself death and sin, pain and suffering were conquered. God’s love and mercy won the battle through Jesus Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I’d call that good!

Today as you take time to reflect on Good Friday ask yourself; ‘Am I loving others as Christ commanded? Am I laying down my life everyday in service to others?’