“I do not know where you are leading. I am empty, unsure, uncomfortable. I have only a beckoning star to follow.” Kate Compston
Take a look at the two pictures, what strikes you most? the first is a medieval stone relief and the second is by Nicholas Mynheer, a contemporary British artist.
We have recently celebrated Epiphany, the coming of the Magi. This January we had the opportunity to see what might have been the Bethlehem star, a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter which only happens about every 800 years. It was cloudy that night, I know because I went on a walk with a friend to look for it. It’s not always easy to find a star.
The Magi were seeking something they couldn’t quite define. They knew what they sought was meaningful and they were compelled to continue this search despite cloudy nights and a long hard journey. Similarly, do we look for something? Here’s a story about missed opportunities called The Fourth Wise Man.
“I was going to go with them. I mean, the star, when it appeared, was like no other sign in the heavens that I had ever seen. It was luminous, iridescent, shining with a blue and red fire. It called to me, whispered to me of adventure, of hope, of a new meaning, a new way of looking at things. I wanted to find out what it was all about.
The others, they are more experienced than I am in the arts and sciences of astronomy: they said the star was a symbol of a royal birth; but not any old royal birth – of the greatest kings ever born. I wasn’t so sure about that, and anyway, who needs more kings? They just repeat the mistakes of their predecessors, however fantastic their promises before they take the throne.
Anyway, when it came down to it, I wasn’t sure. You know, it was a long journey and with no assurance of anything at the end of it. A bit of a risk - take really. I wasn’t scared, you understand, just got my sensible head on. I mean, who wants to sleep it rough for months on end and then there was also the cost. We all had to pitch in with servants, food etc. Not only that, but the others insisted on buying presents. Expensive ones they were too! No quick trip to the potion shop for some baby soothing ointment, oh no. We’re talking gold, frankincense and myrrh.
So, I stayed here with the same old, same old. Star studies, a few servant girls for company, living the life – you know. Very comfortable, my life is compared with most people. But… just a little boring. Which makes me wonder if I really made the right decision… you see, they did find something. It took them a long time and cost them a heck of a lot both financially and effort-wise. And, hearing the stories, I’m not sure even what they found. Certainly not a king in a palace as expected.
Their stories are full of near misses when they got lost, or had the camels stolen, or were diddled out money at a wayside inn. But they are also full of adventure, of excitement, of new lands, amazing scenery, unusual peoples and different customs. And more than anything, they have changed. This child, whoever he is, has affected them in a way that no pampered prince could ever do. It’s like they have a purpose for living, like there is a meaning to what they are doing and how they are doing it. They’ve even changed what they do a bit. I get first choice on servant girls these days. It’s like they are still on a journey of discovery which continues every day. They’re certainly not bored anyway. I sometimes think I could do with another star.”
Here is another thought about the Epiphany from a poem by Kate Compston:
Pitch your tent with mine
So that I may not become deterred
By hardship, strangeness, doubt.
Show me the movement I must make
Towards a wealth not dependant on possessions
Toward a wisdom not based on books
Towards a strength not bolstered by might
Toward a God not confined to heaven
But scandalously earthed, poor, unrecognized…
Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:
- What star guides you towards the divine?
- What do you seek?
- What are your gifts?
You will need some left-over Christmas wrapping paper
- Cut out a square about 15cm square
- What are your gifts, what are your aspirations? What do you seek? If you like, write these on the blank side of the paper.
- Follow the instructions in the link below to make your star from the pape
This meditation is commissioned by Leeds Methodist Mission