Bright spark, shot from a brighter place,
Where beams surround my Saviour’s face,
Canst thou be any where
So well as there?
(The Star – George Herbert)
By Laurel Pattenden
As the dark of winter approaches, nothing shines brighter than the stars. No longer do leaves impede our view from the porch. It really is the best time to view the stars.
The cold weather actually seems to make them appear brighter and crisper. Who doesn’t wonder at their beauty when we take time to look up.
We all look at stars differently. The scientist has looked and learned that stars fade and die. Richard Feyman commented that the “most remarkable discovery in all of astronomy is that the stars are made of atoms of the same kind as those on earth”.
Does knowing this change how you gaze at the stars? Yes? Perhaps? No? I have to admit that if I dwell on the science of stars it does impede on my wonder. So I zap these thoughts as quickly as I can. I am not of scientific mind. I don’t like to think of the doom of a star. How bleak is that and W. H. Auden has given this some thought too:
Were all the stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
(The More Loving One)
Winter truly is the best time to view stars and Christmas is truly the best time to reconnect with the Bethlehem star. But do we apply science’s discoveries about stars to the Christmas star? Is “the star” fading and approaching death?
But then again, our Christmas star can fade and die without any help from science. Our own disconnection can cause it to fade. There are many things that can cause us to distance ourselves from this star of wonder. Maybe it is grief, sorrow, life’s tiredness, loneliness, busyness or perfectionism. Maybe it is our constant insistence on being right and in control about all things. Exhausting at best. If none of these ideas for reflection touch you, then create your own list of circumstances and behaviours that keep you from seeing the clarity and promise of the Christmas star.
I tend to like the poets view of stars especially John Milton’s. He wrote: “The stars, that nature hung in heaven, and filled their lamps of everlasting oil, give due light to the misled and the lonely traveller.”
Milton really knew his stars. What if we apply his thoughts to the Christmas star? To give light to our misled lives. The lonely traveller, for aren’t we all lonely travellers finding our way home, guided by “the star” fueled with everlasting oil! I don’t believe the Bethlehem star will ever burn out, will ever die. How can it with this everlasting oil of life? This star can only fade to us when our relationship with it fades. This star can only die to us when our relationship with it dies.
Another poet, William Butler Yeats wrote: “And a softness came from the starlight, and filled me to the bone.” This Christmas let us rekindle our connection to this everlasting, life-giving, bright star and be filled with love and compassion to our very bones. Merry Christmas and may the Christmas star shine bright for you!