In my first year of college I took a class in astronomy. I thought it would be romantic to study the skies like sailors and shepherds, to learn constellations, and to be able to impress a date on a twilight walk. Instead, it was about math and physics. For me, there was little romance and lots of reality.
Looking for stars is sometimes like that. We try to follow patterns and signals, to discern where God might be leading us, but along the way we’re interrupted. Sight becomes fuzzy, reality redefined, and stars can seem to fall.
Though Christmas lights still twinkle, if we’re honest, there’s perhaps an undercurrent of sadness to the celebrations.
Our country mourns the loss of innocent lives in Connecticut and elsewhere. Too many continue to recover from recent storms. Our diocese mourns the death of a beloved bishop, and we all probably have our own personal sense of the ways that stargazing is suddenly turned into sadness and all we see is darkness.
But the message of the Epiphany tells us that no matter what, God is with us. Even in the darkness, even in the clouds, even when we can’t see straight, God is here, leading, watching, and loving.
In Matthew 2, almost as soon as the wise men see a star and guess its meaning, they run into trouble. King Herod has also seen the star. He’s threatened and wants to eliminate the competition. But the wise men are not called “wise” for nothing.
The wise ones in Matthew get a sense of where they need to go in order to be faithful to God. And then in going, they take risks. They risk physically, since King Herod won’t hesitate to kill. They risk professionally, since they will look foolish if they fail. They risk spiritually, since meeting the Messiah might question values, priorities, and relationships. Nevertheless, they make their way with persistence and faith.
The Epiphany reminds us that even though life can be confusing, Jesus Christ has come as the light of the world. And this light will never leave us.
Stars will continue to appear. Sometimes we’ll need one another to see clearly. Sometimes we’ll need practice to spot them and learn their meaning. And sometimes we will simply need to stand still, breathe deeply and look, listen, and wait. Isaiah’s words sing the good news, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.”
John Beddingfield is the rector at All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. We invite you to share your thoughts, comments, and reflections on Facebook.