In the September 2009 publication of "Reformed Worship," I came across a worship idea for Epiphany Sunday. Written by Susan J. Foster, the article outlined a way to both recognize the gifts of the traveling magi and the unusual nature of those gifts.
Star gifts are a deceptively simple idea. Star-shaped pieces of paper with words printed on them, like imagination, gentleness, patience, visitation, and building, prepared for the congregation to choose from on Epiphany Sunday. Foster provides 162 words to write on the stars, providing an ample selection for the new year.
I think it took me a year or two to recognize the beautiful simplicity of this celebration of Epiphany, but once I stopped to reflect on it, I was hooked. More lasting than a New Year's resolution, less defined than a promise to be nicer to people, star gifts helped me to focus on specific attributes throughout the year.
This is at least the fourth year that I've included star gifts in the Epiphany celebration. I didn't keep my stars from the first year, but I know one of them was "cooking." A funny star gift to choose, but my husband had been asking me to cook more often than once a month, so it was the perfect star gift for me. With my star in hand, I found a great cookbook and started planning meals, gaining confidence in the kitchen and slowly graduating to cooking 1-2 times a week. A gift to both of us, through following the star.
Though I won't be celebrating Epiphany with the church I've pastored the last 8 1/2 years, I prepared star gifts for them anyway. A few years ago, I found an origami pattern, and so fold the stars from multi-colored paper that decorates the sanctuary during gray and cold days. As I taped them up around the sanctuary, I wondered which ones I would choose this year. Two caught my eye, so on January 1, I folded two more stars, and committed to my star gifts for the year. With the change in vocation from serving a congregation to serving two Presbyteries, I know that I will need a new kind of "discipline," so that was one gift. And with that change comes a shift from preaching weekly, something I've been doing almost non-stop for 16+ years, to preaching when invited to, so the second star gift that chose me was "writing." Thus begins this blog, where I intend to regularly reflect, comment, and share as the Spirit moves me.
What star gifts might you choose for this Epiphany season? How will you be led by the light of Christ in a new year? May you have a star gift to help you deepen and grow in faith.