Sermon for Epiphany: “Following the Star”

Following the Star

This week, I was thinking about when Sage turned five, and I was putting him to bed, laying beside him on his twin bed, and we gazed together at the night sky — on his ceiling. For Christmas, my Dad got him a STEM Discovery Kids planetarium that projects onto his ceiling and slides all the mysteries of the universe. With every new image, his awe and wonder grew with amazement, “Wow!” I bet that’s the sun; look, it’s burning! And that’s Saturn; look at its rings. Is that a galaxy, Mommy? The Milky Way, With all those stars?!! That’s the Moon!! What are all those dark spots, Mommy? Those are craters. He was lost in awe at the magic of the stars above him.

On this Epiphany morning, we too are called to wonder at the mystery of our universe, marvel with awe and amazement at what God has done and is doing in this world and our own lives, just as those wise travelers over 2,000 years ago did, following a star in the sky they journeyed hundreds possibly thousands of miles in seek of God’s Hope revealed in a tiny form.

As The Waking Dreamer reminds us, “Though we really don’t know much what to make of the season of Epiphany, in a real sense, everything about our faith is a part of the celebration of Epiphany. It means revealing; it is a taking away of the veil that covers something. Epiphany is about unveiling what Advent promises: that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk. 3:6); and as Isaiah announced, that “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5).”[1]

So often, what we allow ourselves to experience is limited by what we see or don’t see with our eyes, what we experience with our hands in the material world around us. As people caught up in our human condition, especially as we are recovering from a season of great indulgence where grief and loss are merely pretended into oblivion, we expect to see God’s glory in the form of tent cities falling to the ground and refugee children running into their parents’ arms. We expect that God’s salvation will show up in the bellies of hungry children in Yemen, Sudan, Ukraine, Appalachia, and Omaha. We expect salvation to include bipartisan agreements, clean negotiations between our nation’s leaders, a ceasefire in warring nations, and an end to genocide. We expect our postal workers to be paid for sloshing up and down the streets delivering our paychecks in the pouring rain, for TSA agents working to keep us safe on our Christmas vacations to be able to afford a vacation. As the Prophet says, we expect that all people will finally see it— the glory of God shining in and through us, revealing the fulfillment of our greatest hope: justice, love, and peace for all people.

But we all woke up on December 26 with the same newspaper in hand, polluted with the same stories, under the same stars. So, maybe as we gather this morning under a starlit sky,” it is our expectations that need to change. Where and How do we look for hope? How do we see and name hope in our daily lives? Sometimes, HOPE seems lost amidst all the pain and suffering and with everything we try to fill our lives. On this Epiphany, what Spirit is Revealing to us is not a magical light in the sky to light the way but an invitation to find that light within ourselves. Hope is not lost, it’s just out of place.

One of my favorite movies as a child was Mary Poppins. When Shannon and I took our kids to see Mary Poppins Returns— it was as magical as the first time I saw Mary Poppins as a child. Emily Blunt was the epitome of marvelous sophistication and unbridled imagination! Lin-Miranda was amazing!

When Banks Jr. is about to lose the house, and he is in great despair, having already lost his wife earlier that year— he breaks down in front of his children. In tears, he blubbers that since their mother left, everything is falling to pieces. She left, and he didn’t know what to do.

I know I’m not the only one in this room who can relate to his feelings.

Silence fills the room, and then young Georgie (4), remembering what Mary Poppins had told them, that “After all, you can’t lose what you never lost,” steps forward to share a song with his father, singing:

“So when you need her touch

And loving gaze

Gone but not forgotten

Is the perfect phrase

Smiling from a star

That she makes glow

Trust she’s always there

Watching as you grow

Find her in the place

Where the lost things go.”[2]

Mary Poppins instructed the children that “nothing is gone forever, only out of place.”

Perhaps the star that these wise ones from distant lands followed so long ago led them to the promised Messiah, to a renewed HOPE, where the magic of mystery and wonder lie, Is NOT lost at all, but only out of place.

Maybe the star, like Christ, has moved from the visible light in the sky to the guiding light in our hearts. Perhaps following the star to the dawning of God’s new age means enacting salvation ourselves, despite the chaos that surrounds us, with each estranged family member’s hand we hold, each poor mouth we feed, with each transgender child we embrace with God’s inclusive love, with each postman we run to meet on the sidewalk with a “smile and a thank you” that brings light to her rainy day?

Maybe each time we say the words, I’m sorry, or I love you; the magic of those words transforms the human connection between us, such that God’s healing, saving presence is more available to us even when it feels like the stars in our sky are fading or are barely visible anymore.

Epiphany allows the Church to enact God’s love in the world tangibly. Rather than merely presenting gifts to the Christ child under a shining star, the real revelation comes to life when we embody the gift and share God’s radical, healing presence with a world still waiting — still waiting for the Glory of the Lord to shine around them.

As Sage and I lay in his bed watching the stars twinkle and burn, we discussed gifts such as the planetarium he received for Christmas. We named some of our favorite gifts, his new bike, his microscope, and his Hot Wheels shark toy, and how giving and receiving gifts is a beautiful way to connect to our family and friends. As we contemplated the many gifts that arrived in our household over the holidays, I asked Sage if he would like to designate his birthday (Jan. 14) as a day to “give gifts to others” rather than receive more since he had already received so many presents.

With that same look of wonder and the HOPE of salvation come down, he said emphatically, “Maybe we can give my dollars to people who don’t have dollars or food. Maybe we can take an envelope, collect lots of dollars from people, go to the grocery to buy lots of food, and share it with somebody else who doesn’t have food.” I want to do that on my birthday, Mommy!

Epiphany. Revealing. Taking away the veil that covers something.

The unveiling of what Advent promises: that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

The light in the sky, the gifts of the magi, are not lost.

May we find this growing light of love within our hearts this day, and may we carry the illumined gifts of LOVE to a world in need of salvation today and every day.


[1] Brehm, A. (1970, January 1). Light in darkness. Light in Darkness.

[2] Emily Blunt – the place where lost things go. Genius. (n.d.).