The season after Christmas and before Lent can often seem like a “down” time in the church year—as if we’re simply marking time while waiting for another grand celebration. Whether it is because we are suffering from holiday fatigue or influenced by gloomy winter weather, the season of Epiphany can go by unnoticed and unheralded. As we enter our Tricentennial celebration, I would like everyone to have a “star gift.” A star gift is simply a star-shaped piece of brightly colored paper with a word printed on it. Every person who comes to church on Epiphany Sunday receives a star gift and is asked to reflect on that word for the coming year. You are invited to ponder what significance this word might have in your live, and how God might be speaking to you through this simple message.
The star gifts will also be sent to every church family. In this moment, you are receiving a gift. It reminds us that this is always the order of things in God’s realm—God always gives first, and then we are invited to respond with our gifts and ourselves.
The wise men who traveled great distances to offer their gifts to the newborn Christ-child were responding to the gift first given to them. They received God’s gift, then offered their gifts to God. As we commemorate the arrival of the wise men and remember their offerings, we delight in the “star gift” reminder that symbolizes God’s generosity in our lives.
“Ponder These Words in Your Hearts”
Everyone who receives a star gift is encouraged to hang it up where they are sure to see it every day. It may be on their bathroom mirror, or next to their computer screen.
My prayer is that you allow these words to speak to you. You could start by looking the word up in the dictionary so that you are clear on its meaning; we hear the word grace all the time, but what exactly does it mean? A word that seemed unclear at the beginning of the year may gain new meaning as the year goes on.
Often the words seem very timely, as if they were indeed designated for the recipient. It is this sense of providence and wondering how God might be working through this simple process that reminds us of God’s presence throughout the year.
Out of Receiving Comes Sharing
We are invited to reflect on our relationship with God who continually encourages and strengthens God’s people. Perhaps that is the delight of “star gifts”—they truly are a gift that keeps on giving, even long after the Epiphany season is over.
Like any other gift, “star gifts” can either be received with joy or discarded and forgotten. I hope that you will be intentional about your response to the “star gift.” Will the paper stars be stuffed into a pocket or jammed into the bottom of a purse, never to be considered again? Or will that word be considered an opportunity—a chance to reflect on how God speaks to you in your current situation? What might you learn from one word? What new ideas might evolve, what treasured wisdom might resurface?
Epiphany is the celebration of God’s presence breaking through to shine as a light in the darkness. As we enter into a celebration of 300 years of ministry may we also rejoice in the reminder of our generous, giving God—one “star gift” at a time. (Based upon an article by Susan Foster for “Reformed Worship”)
Rev. Dr. Philip W. Oehler, Sr.