Advent: A star, a star, dancing in the night

A star, a star, dancing in the night… with a tail as big as a kite. 

Stars are symbolic of many things. For some, they are a spiritual or sacred symbol. For example, an eight-pointed star is a Native American symbol of hope and guidance. For others, stars are a symbol of magic, humanity, divinity, direction (as the Northern Star), excellence, or even fame. Some may say “reach for the stars” as a means to motivate. The star of Bethlehem is one of guidance, the star of David representing hope in the coming Messiah. 

In the Christmas story, we read in Matthew 2 that the Magi (wise men, magicians, astronomers) see a star rise to their west and travel great distances to worship the one who has been born, Jesus, the king of the Jews. This star is the beacon of their long-awaited hope, now realized. Imagine yourself in their shoes. For generations the Jews have been awaiting the coming of the Messiah, literally looking to the skies. Can you imagine the heart palpitations, the thoughts that raced through their minds “do you think it could be?” The compelling sense to see the star, to not miss the joyous occasion, the motivation to go and see – with the thought “we must see this miraculous occasion for ourselves.” 

Do you see what I see? 

A ray of hope, a shimmer of light in the darkness, of promise and God’s faithfulness. Just as stars are light-years from us on Earth today, often God’s promise of peace, justice, and reconciliation may appear as just a glimmer, or is it a satellite passing by? Could this hope of peace and a better world to come be real? 

What appears to us as a tiny shimmer of light in vast darkness is truly a huge celestial body producing heat and light. Apart from the sun, stars are all light-years from the earth and are only reflected to us as a small speck of light. On one hand, stars are a profound manifestation of power and light in the universe, yet we on earth only glimpse the tiniest light in the sky – often obscured by clouds and other things that impede our ability to see. How often do we miss a true picture of what is really happening? How often do Christians in the United States ignore, or only glimpse parts of the story, about what realities exist in Israel, Palestine, and throughout the Middle East? 

Just as the song Do you see what I see? reminds us to pay attention to the star dancing in the night, may we be reminded to hold onto hope for the future of peace in the Middle East. May we have eyes to see the gripping fear, trepidation, and threat of war; the effects of economic insecurity and profound financial instability in Lebanon; the ongoing civil war in Syria and the tens of thousands of people who have been displaced; the concerns of Israelis who live in fear of war and Palestinians who have lived since 1967 under military occupation. May we have eyes to see. 

And may we hold onto the glimpse of the star dancing in the sky as a ray of hope. A small reflection of goodness and light. 

A Star in the East 

The theme of 2022’s Week of Christian Unity will focus on this same idea, “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2). Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) will join the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), churches and partners in the Middle East, and Christians around the world January 18-25, 2022 to focus on prayer and solidarity. Keep your eye out on CMEP’s website and social media for ways we will join with others as a sign to the world of how our common faith in God brings us all together. Resources, initially drafted by Christians from Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt draw from different cultures, races, languages all around the 2022 theme of A Star in the East. An international group representing the Roman Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Church’s Faith and Order Commission finalize the materials that include an ecumenical prayer service, biblical reflections, prayers for eight days, and other elements of worship. 

A Prayer adapted from the 2022 Week of Unity Resources:  

Lord God, illuminate our path by the light of Christ who moves before us and leads us. Enlighten us and dwell within us. Guide us to discover a small manger in our hearts where a great light still sleeps. Creator of light, we thank you for the gift of that unfading Star, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. May he be a beacon for our pilgrimage. Heal our divisions and draw us closer to the Light that we may find our unity in him. 

God of heaven, you created the stars, the sun and the moon, and the entire universe. As we only have the smallest glimpse of the glory of your creation, give us eyes to see. Give us ears to hear. For those in the Middle East and around the world, we hold onto hope that we will see a star arise on the horizon – representing the possibility of peace and a better future. We lift up Christians in the Middle East and pray that you would meet their needs. We hold onto the glimpse of that star in heaven as we together seek hope, goodness, and light. Amen. 

Written by Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon and Rev. Aune M. Carlson

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