Time to Jump In

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I am haunted by a recurring dream I had as a teen. The dream started out innocuous enough. I stood with a group of friends talking about nothing in particular, maybe planning what we do for the weekend. Then a thick black line would appear on the ground between me and them. Of course, as dreams go, I was the only one who noticed. As the conversation continued, the line would widen and deepen and divide my friends from me. When they would finally notice, they would tell me to jump over it and join them. At this point, they saw it as a gap a few inches wide while from where I stood it was several feet wide and growing. They were angry that I seemed to be choosing to stay away from them. I was frightened that I was alone. And then a voice would rise up out of the chasm, “The only way across is in.” This voice was deep and strong and terrifying.

Sometimes the dream ended here. Other times I would try to get across by building a bridge, throwing a rope, or finding a dead tree that would reach across. Whatever method I tried, wouldn’t work. If I tried building a simple bridge it would crack in half and fall into the chasm. If I tried throwing a rope to the other side, no one would be able to catch it. And, of course, the tree would always fall in, long before it reached the other side. My efforts to cross would always make my friends laugh and the voice would be louder and angrier with the same message, “The only way across is in!” I’d wake up scared and confused every time.

While I had this dream many times, I haven’t had it in decades. But I’ve been thinking about it this week in terms of the Isaiah text. The Prophet is pretty clear about where God is in the chaos of human actions. God is tired of meaningless fasts and empty rituals. The people have not noticed the chasm widening at their feet. They have not noticed the depth of injustice, oppression, hunger, homelessness, poverty, and shame right in their midst. Perhaps they even went to so far as to laugh at those who were trying to do something about these problems.

As an adolescent, I thought the dream was about my struggles with an eating disorder and depression. It very well may have been. But when I think about it now, it seems to be a comment on so much more than my own small life. The only way across the breach between me and God or me and my neighbor is in. Any attempts to avoid repentance and repair will be woefully inadequate and might even look funny to those standing by and passing judgement. I wonder how my dream would have ended if I had had the courage to jump into that great chasm, to sink into the depths and find a new way.

Every time I go to a march, a rally, or a protest, I am overcome with waves of emotion. Just this week I participated in a protest of the travel ban on Muslims. When I arrived there were a couple hundred people. By the time I left two hours later, there were more than 5000 people and they were still going strong on a Tuesday evening! The variety of voices and faces and ages chanting together, standing together, marching together for justice fill me with hope. Perhaps this is a glimpse of what jumping into the breach looks like…

The Prophet’s call is clear. The breach must be repaired. God wants nothing more from us than to create systems of justice, free the oppressed, feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the poor, and let go of shame. None of this can be done from the edges of the breach. It can’t be done by shouting instructions to those who are trying to make repairs. It cannot be done by laughing at faulty efforts. The breach that is disturbingly deep in our world, our country, our cities, our neighborhoods, our churches, and our homes needs all of us to jump into it. We need to experience the fear and discomfort of letting go of familiar, safe ways, and to allow God to guide us to something new. Then we shall be called “repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”

May we all find the courage to offer God the fast God chooses.

RCL – Year A – Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – February 5, 2017
Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)
Psalm 112:1-9 (10)
1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)
Matthew 5:13-20

Photo: CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe

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A Pastoral Prayer of Confession

I’ve struggled to find appropriate words for this week. So I offer the following prayer. If you are looking for sermon help, try here.

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Patient and steadfast God, how is it that you continue to love us so completely? So many years have passed since you spoke with Micah and made it clear what we are to do. Yet, still, we ask what we can do to please you. We fill our lives with routine, worship you with hollow words, and make meaningless sacrifices to feel justified in claiming your favor. It seems that we would rather do almost anything other than what you ask. Self-preservation protected by hatred and fear seem more palatable than kindness. Hunkering down and clinging to our traditions and views of what the Bible says are so much easier than going out and actually doing justice. Mistaking self-hatred and shame for humility keeps us from taking the risk of wholeness. Have mercy, O God. Draw us out of our fear, away from false security and shallow beliefs, and into the abundance of life you offer. Remind us that your ways call us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Lord of all, so many of us claim to live in your tent and dwell on your holy hill. However, there are so few who are blameless and do what is right. Truth spoken from the heart is rarely heard these days, even from those who call your name most loudly. Threats to build walls and deny entry into this country based on religion sounds an awful lot like doing evil to friends and reproaching our neighbors. Fear and greed cannot be our ways if we want to live in your tent. Destroying sacred land with pipelines will not lead to peaceful living on your holy mountain. Remind us of your desire for us to be repairers of the breach rather than creators of more harm. Continuing the ways of the past only ensures the continuation of oppression and your Word speaks of liberation for all people.

Wise and wonderful God, how foolish we are! How little we have listened to you and learned from our history. We know what happens when our leaders seek only to serve themselves. We have seen the results of worshiping everything other than you. Yet, we are still fooled into thinking that human ways will save us from ourselves. We fall for it over and over again. When will we stop blaming you for all the challenges we face while congratulating ourselves on our successes? You name us Blessed when we are peacemakers, justice-seekers, and risk-takers. You promise your presence when we bear witness to suffering and speak holy truth to human power. Why do we, so often, think the easy way is the righteous way? Let us hear and claim your blessing on those who repent, resist, and repair for we shall be engaging in holy wisdom and be called fools.

God of abundant blessings, may your words fill our lives, change our hearts, and call us from our self-serving sinfulness. We who rest in our privilege when others cannot find safe harbor cannot claim your blessings when we do not live them. Blessed are the oppressed. May our hands be actively bringing in the realm of God. Blessed are those who mourn. May we offer gentle comfort even as we cry out for justice on their behalf. Blessed are the meek. May we step out of their way so they may claim their rightful place on earth. Blessed are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness. May we cry out until all are satisfied. Blessed are the merciful. May we be foolish enough to learn the ways of mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart. May we have the sense to let them lead us to you. Blessed are the peacemakers. May we have the grace to seek peace and pursue it until we are called your children. Blessed are the ones persecuted for the sake of righteousness. May we all have the courage to take our place alongside those who are persecuted on your behalf. Blessed are the reviled and falsely accused ones. May we align ourselves with the innocent until we all live on your holy mountain.

Merciful God, your faithfulness to us remains a mystery. You shower us with grace, forgiveness, and love and we fail to respond with our whole hearts. Let this be the day when we claim the blessings you lay before us. Let this be the day when fear gives way to hope and we recognize your presence in the midst of chaos. This may be a season of light and revelation, yet we are reminded that you can also be found in the depths and nothing can extinguish your wisdom. May today be the day we truly make your ways our ways. Grant us the grace to repent of our sins of fearful selfishness, the strength to resist the pull of the oppressors, and the courage to repair the breach with all our neighbors. Have mercy, O God, and hear our prayers. Amen.


RCL – Year A – Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – January 29, 2017
Micah 6:1-8
Psalm 15
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Matthew 5:1-12


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Gone Fishin’

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Many people love fishing. They spend hours with their rods and reels waiting to catch “the big one.” I’ve participated in conversations about the best kind of bait to use and the right time of the day or year to catch particular kinds of fish. I’ve fished in lakes, ponds, rivers, and oceans. I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve heard about “the one that got away” that was the biggest fish ever seen in human history. And, yes, as a child I was up before the sun on many mornings to go fishing. I had my own fishing poles and I learned how to fly fish and tie flies. The problem is, I really don’t enjoy fishing at all.

I have nothing against those who fish for sport or for a living. I’ve been known to enjoy fish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Fishing just isn’t fun for me. All those hours spent waiting and watching for a fish to bite always felt like I could be doing something else. As a child I’d rather have been reading if I was going to sit in a canoe for hours. It isn’t exactly boredom; it’s just not excitement. Even though worms creep me out, I don’t want to kill them just to catch another creature that I will also have to kill. Honestly, if I had to kill the fish I eat, I’d never eat fish. It always makes me feel sad. (Yes, I know someone else kills the fish I buy at the market or in a restaurant; I don’t claim to be rational about this.) I don’t need to kill to eat and my livelihood doesn’t depend on it. The bottom line is that I don’t like to get up early, I don’t like worms, and I don’t like to touch the fish, and really don’t like the idea of killing something.

Fortunately, the kind of fishing Jesus invites his disciples to do, doesn’t involve killing anything. Just the opposite, in fact. Fishing for people is all about bringing new life. Although, I wonder about churches today. For whom, exactly, are we fishing? I think it’s been decades in which we have not cast our nets wide enough. In fact, we might need a whole new set of nets.

fisherman-1592840_1920I’ve read so much about attracting Millennials to church, what we should and should not do. I’ve read a lot about the impact of Boomers as they’ve entered into retirement. All fine and reasonable information. But what happened to Gen Xers? Have we just written them off as lost causes? Why aren’t we interested in this generation that bridges the gap between what was and what is coming? Don’t we need these folks who are in the midst of their careers and raising their children? Some of these Gen Xers are now looking for ways to contribute to their communities now that their children are grown. Why aren’t we as concerned about their spiritual needs as we are about the Millennials’? These are some great fish who could really benefit from being part of our churches!

And what about the folks who might not add much to our budgets but could seriously benefit from being part of a loving, faithful community? Why are more churches not reaching out to those in recovery from addiction or mental health crises? How about reaching past the margins to those who are experiencing homelessness, living on the streets or in shelters? What of the folks who are most vulnerable around us? These are not small fish, useless fish. These are people who need community and a sense of belonging and to be affirmed as God’s beloved children.

I wonder if we have been fishing for the wrong purposes. It seems to me that we, as church, have been seeking those who could benefit us. You know, people who can chair committees, put money in the offering plate, and run our children and youth programs. Perhaps it’s time we start asking who could benefit from being part of our churches. Whose spiritual needs are going unnoticed and, therefore, unmet? Whose life would be changed by being shown that they are God’s beloved and they belong in a loving, faith-filled community? These are the fish we should be seeking. Are our nets adequate? Do we need to try fishing somewhere new?

In these days when life feels so uncertain for anyone on the lower rungs of the privilege ladder, wouldn’t it be great if churches could offer a place to be that is free from fear? Fishing, in the name of Jesus, is all about bringing hope to the hopeless, wholeness to the broken, peace to the anxious, and love to the hated. Let’s stop worrying about having the best boat and the latest and greatest in fishing equipment, and start paying attention to those who need to us to be church for them in real, life-saving ways.

I don’t know about you, but I am going fishing…

RCL – Year A – Third Sunday after Epiphany – January 22,2017
Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 4-9
I Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Top Photo: CC0 image by Lorri Lang
Bottom Photo: CC0 image by Paul Brennan

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What are You Looking For?

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This question Jesus asked those first two who followed him –  “What are you looking for?” – haunts me. I can’t escape from it. Those two followers neatly avoided answering it. I don’t thing they were all that concerned with where Jesus was staying so much as they wanted to stay with him a bit longer. Maybe if they hung around with him long enough, they would know what they were looking for.

What follows is a kind of dialogue that came to me while contemplating this question.

What are you looking for?
usually my keys or my glasses or my phone
sometimes my wallet or that thing I just had in my hand

What are you looking for?
something to make for dinner and tomorrow’s lunch
warmer socks and a heavier sweater

What are you looking for?
a wifi connection and a hot cup of tea
a few minutes to finish this task

What are you looking for?
time to be still and relax before the next meeting
an hour or so to go for a walk and release this tension

What are you looking for?
okay… okay… maybe some answers
more hope or more light or…

What are you looking for?
I don’t know… there I’ve said it
I don’t know, exactly

What are you looking for?
an end to violence and hunger and homelessness
and illness and fear and hatred and ignorance

What are you looking for?
You. Christ. I am looking for You
in them and in me and in everyone

What are you looking for?
what I can do… what I can be…
how can I, how can we, embody you?

What are you looking for?

RCL – Year A – Second Sunday after Epiphany – January 15, 2017
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Photo: CC0 image by Martin Winkler

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After the Journey

camels-897658_1920Sometimes it’s what you do after the journey that matters. We spent four weeks preparing ourselves for Bethlehem. Four weeks to make a journey that we take every year. We see the sights – Mary nine months pregnant plodding along, Joseph new to this family thing worried about getting it right, an over-crowded city and an inn with no rooms, the stable and its manger ready for sacred use, angels singing good news to sleepy shepherds, a star shining and shining and shining until Magi from afar finally show up – and continue on without giving them as much attention as maybe they deserve. Then we celebrate our arrival and quickly leave, maybe not even waiting around to see who else has made the trip. Did it matter at all?

More than twenty years ago I went to Israel with a church group. I thought it would be the first of many such trips. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back yet, but that trip changed me in ways I wouldn’t understand for several years. Once we landed in Tel Aviv, there was a push to get us quickly out to a safer place. The day we were supposed to go to Caesarea Philippi we were rerouted because there was fear of retaliation for a suicide bombing. I was shocked when the bus stopped at a check-point before being allowed to enter Bethlehem. The Holocaust Museum with the display of children’s shoes and the names being read aloud kept me awake more than one night.

Then there was the night a few of us went to the baths somewhere in Jerusalem. I was approached by two young men. We were talking about the usual kinds of things young people talk about when they first meet. We exchanged names, which I no longer remember. They were nineteen-year-old twins who were reluctant to tell me where they were from. They were certain that if they told me where the lived I would not talk with them anymore. They were Palestinian and they told me that most Americans don’t like Palestinians. When I asked them why, they didn’t really know either. They said something about religion and politics and the conversation moved on.

Of course, there were other moments on that trip that have stayed with me, too. Seeing the wadis fill up and flood into the Dead Sea… presiding over communion in the Garden Tomb… renewing baptismal vows in the Jordan River… climbing up to see the ruins of Herod’s castle… and more.

Something stirred within me on that trip that has remained awake and restless since then. Seeing young soldiers on the streets and knowing that the violence of war was so close drew my attention to the world beyond my own experience. I am still haunted by those sweet young faces telling me that I wouldn’t want to talk to them because they were Palestinian. It had never occurred to me not to talk to someone just because of where they live or what religion they practice or what policies their government puts in place. At 29 years old, things that I had only read about became real.

I returned from that trip and made a point of learning everything I could about Israel and Palestine. I’ve tried my best to be aware of what is happening in the world, and to do my part to change things when possible. Mostly, though, I’ve tried to combat fear, hatred, and ignorance – especially when these things are enhanced in the name of any God.crossroads-997123_1920

I’ve been thinking a lot about that real trip to Israel.  It had a  significant impact on me and my understanding of ministry. I can’t help but think that experiencing the Christmas story through worship and community should change and challenge us in similar ways. The Magi who followed a star for years experienced something. They might not have known specifically why they felt compelled to make the journey, but they went. They encountered the Christ-child and went home by a different road. They were changed so much that they literally could not travel home the same way they had come. They altered the route to keep Jesus alive. Who knows what happened to them after that? At least they started out on a different path.

As hatred and fear seem newly unleashed in the U.S., I am somewhat haunted by that pile of children’s shoes in the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum and the faces of those innocent Palestinian twins. My fear is that we are not taking the lessons of history seriously enough, and remaining silent when we should be crying out for justice until our voices are hoarse. My fear is that we don’t trust that the Love that broke into the world and rested a while in the manger is enough to save us from ourselves. My fear is that we have forgotten the wisdom that faith has taught us, and we will not survive this current wave of hatred, fear, and ignorance. My fear is that we have convinced ourselves that the stories of our faith are powerless which would mean God is also without power.

We journeyed through Advent and Christmas, and we may have experienced joy, or sadness, or both. We might question the meaning of all of it. We might feel uncomfortable or unsettled. We may have encountered Christ and still experience the awe of the moment. This is all fine. However, no matter what we might want to tell ourselves to maintain our own sense of comfort and control, it really is where we go from here that matters. How will you travel differently?

RCL – Year A – Epiphany – January 8, 2016
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-2
Matthew 2:1-12

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Bottom Photo: CC0 image by MoneyforCoffee

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Christmas Brings Risks

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We aren’t particularly good at Christmas in the church. We have dressed it up with pageants, carols, and candlelight. We preach peace and possibilities and encourage people to linger for a moment at the manger and renew their acquaintance with the new born Christ. That’s all well and good, but we seldom hear a word about how dangerous a place that manger can be.

It should be clear enough from the moment Gabriel uttered, “Fear not.” In spite of these words everyone was afraid. Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds all responded appropriately to the frightful messengers who came bearing glad tidings. Even Herod was afraid of what was to come and he didn’t need a holy messenger. We leave out the fearful parts when we tell the story. And we do ourselves a great injustice.

The Christian story isn’t meant to be comfortable and fill us with sweet,  nostalgic feelings, not even the birth story or what follows after it. God’s love for humanity is powerful, messy, and life-altering. Yes, God came in human form to be one of us, to take on the fullness of humanity, and to show us that the worst in us is not outside the reaches of holy redemption. However, if we make it to Bethlehem to greet the sacred mystery that was born in the night, we risk being touched by that very same mystery. And when that happens, our eyes are opened to what we might have been able to shut out before meeting the Christ-child.

Matthew speaks of Rachel weeping for her children with the echoes filling the streets as Herod ordered the slaughter of all the children under age two. These sounds, joined with an angel’s warning, drive Joseph and his new family to safety in Egypt. One innocent life was spared, but Rachel’s weeping filled the streets and continues on to this day. Have you heard her crying for the unarmed Black men shot by police with no justice to be seen? Have you heard her crying for the millions of Syrians displaced and seeking refuge? How about for the Water Protectors whose pleas for the land go unheard? How about for the transwomen assaulted and murdered just because they are who they are? For the undocumented people who live with the threat of deportation? For the Muslim people who live in fear because they call God by another name? For the young women lured into sex trafficking? For veterans who wander the streets without home or hope? For the countless who are hungry, homeless, dismissed, victimized, and forgotten?

If you’ve knelt at the manger and been touched by the mystery there, then you can’t help but hear Rachel weeping and see innocents being slaughtered everywhere. Someone offered Jesus and his family sanctuary long ago. Who will offer sanctuary for today’s innocents? Who will step up and respond to those who weep along with Rachel for their lost children? Who will carry the good news of Bethlehem to those who so desperately need it?

Do you see the risk now? It’s not enough to just talk about making room in our lives once more for the Christ-child. It’s not enough to just sing carols and exchange gifts with our loved ones. Christmas is about changing the world. It’s about protecting the innocent among us. It’s about traveling a different road once you’ve encountered the mystery. It’s about living loud enough to bring love and justice into the world.

If we take the claim to be the body of Christ seriously, then we must embrace the entirety of our faith history. The church, the body of Christ, knows what it is to be a refugee and dependent on others for sanctuary. The church knows what it is to be innocent and under threat of death. The church knows what it is to be beaten and killed just for being who you are. We know these things and so much more because Jesus lived them. We also know what it means to bring healing and hope because Jesus did.

We can talk about the horrors of 2016 in terms of personal losses, terrorist bombings, natural disasters, celebrity deaths, and Aleppo burning. However, if we want 2017 to be different, it is up to us to embody that difference. If we are truly the body of Christ as we claim to be, then if one person is a refugee, then all are refugees. If one person is victimized, all are victimized. If one is homeless, all are homeless. If one is lost, all are lost. On the other hand, we can also embody hope, healing, peace, love, and justice.

The power and mystery that changed the world so long ago lies within the body of Christ today. Let’s make 2017 the year we embrace the risks of Christmas and truly be the church the world so desperately needs.

For more sermon help, try here.

RCL – Year A – First Sunday after Christmas – January 1, 2017
Isaiah 63:7-9
Psalm 148
Hebrews 2:10-18
Matthew 2:13-23

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Sally the Super Star: A Story for Christmas

SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO ATTEND THE 5:00 PM SERVICE AT LIVING TABLE, THIS IS THE STORY I’LL BE READING. IF YOU WANT TO SHARE THE JOY OF HEARING IT FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH THE KIDS, YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO CONTINUE READING.

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Sally the Super Star

This story was written for use with small percussion instruments to be used as follows:
When the word “star” is said, bells jingle; “light” shakers shake; “brighter” clackers clack; “great” drums drum; and “super” thunder-stick thunders. And when “angel” is read, everyone is invited to say “oooo” and when “God” is read, everyone says “ahhhhh”

A very long time ago, in a far off place, a star was born. She was filled with a bright, glittering light. Her name was Sally. When God saw how simple and pretty she was, God gave her a special place in the night time sky. As Sally grew older, she didn’t think her place was so special.

“I want to shine brighter! I want to do something great! I want to be a super star!” Sally would say to anyone who asked and many who did not. She was not content with her place in the night sky. She was one star among many above a city filled with people who almost never looked up.

Sally thought her brother, Stanley, had the best job. He had a spot in the Big Dipper. You know that one star that’s sometimes hard to find, but you just know it’s there. Stanley was proud of his place in the constellation even if he wasn’t as bright as some of the other stars.

As the years went by, Sally was filled with longing. Sometimes her light wasn’t as bright as it could have been because she felt sad because she was an ordinary star, not a super star.

One day an angel of God was passing by and noticed Sally’s dim light. “Hey, what’s wrong with you little star?” the angel asked Sally.

Sally answered with a very sad voice, “I want to shine brighter. I want to do something great. I want to be a super star. And I’m not. I’m just a regular old star, hanging over a city full of people who never look up to see me.” All her old enthusiasm was gone. Sally had become a sad little star.

“Cheer up, little star! Pretty soon you will have a job to do,” said the joyful angel.

“How do you know?” said grumpy Sally, not really believing the angel knew what he was talking about.

“I am the angel Gabriel,” he said with pride, “and I have just come from a special mission God gave just to me.”

“Yeah? So what?” Sally wasn’t having any of Gabriel’s joy. “I’m Sally, just a dull old star. God put me right in this place. I don’t think a mission from God is all that special.”

“Oh, but it is! Just you wait and see. In about nine months you are going to be one busy little star. You really are! You’ll be brighter! You’ll be great! You’ll be super!” Gabriel sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

“How do you know?” asked Sally, her curiosity winning out over her grumpiness.

“Well, I said I was returning from a special mission that God gave me.” Gabriel looked at Sally, and Sally nodded as Gabriel continued, “I just got a girl named Mary to agree to bring God’s child into the world.” Gabriel said this as though he thought Sally would understand. She did not.

“What has this got to do with me?” Sally asked, a little irritated.

“Surely, you’ve heard about this child.” Sally shook her head. She didn’t pay much attention to the humans who never took time to look up and see her hanging out, lighting up the night sky. “Unbelievable!” Gabriel was amazed that Sally didn’t know what was going on right under her shiny little nose.

“This child has been talked about, promised even, for generations. He’ll be known as Emanuel because he’ll actually be ‘God with us,’ but his name will be Jesus which means ‘God is salvation’.”

“I still don’t know what that has to do with me!” Sally practically shouted. If she had feet she would have stomped them in frustration.

“Oh, Sally,” Gabriel said with a smile. “Sally, you were made for this. God put you in the sky for this. You have always said that you want to shine brighter, do something great, and be a super star. This will be your chance. So you better start gathering up all your light because in a few months you are really going to need it.”

Sally just stared at Gabriel. She still did not understand.

“Sally, you sweet little star. Don’t you see? People are going to need to be able to find this child. He’s going to be born in the city right below you. You do know that you shine right above Bethlehem, a city with quite a history, don’t you?” Gabriel watched and waited for Sally to grasp what he was trying to tell her.

Sally started to shine a little brighter. She was going to do something great. She was going to get her chance to be a super star. “Are you telling me that I’m going to be the one who leads the way to this baby that the world has been waiting for?”

“Yes, Sally, that’s exactly what I’m telling you. In a few months Mary and Joseph will travel to Bethlehem for the census. They’ll get there just in time for Jesus to be born. And then you will light up the sky so others can come and visit this child who will be light for the world.” Gabriel was pleased to see that Sally finally understood. Her job was going to be way more important than Stanely’s spot in the Big Dipper!

Over the next nine months, Sally gathered up all her light and concentrated on glowing brighter and brighter as the months went by. As her light grew brighter, she grew larger. By the time Jesus was born, Sally was the brightest and biggest star in the sky. And she stayed that way for a very long time.

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On the night Jesus was born, Sally watched as a whole bunch of angels startled shepherds who were caring for their sheep through the night. The angels told the shepherds to go and see the baby Jesus who was with his parents right below where Sally lit up the sky. Sally was thrilled when all the shepherds looked up and saw her shining so brightly. They followed her light to the very spot where Jesus lay in a manger.

All through that night and for many nights, people came to visit Jesus and leave him gifts. People came from far off, following Sally’s light. A group of magi (really smart and wise people) came and brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And Sally lit the way for them.

After a time, Sally noticed that she wasn’t shining quite as bright and she wasn’t  quite as big as she had been when Jesus was born. That was okay with Sally. She played her part. She really did shine brighter, she did something great, and for a little while she was a super star.

Somehow, that didn’t seem so important anymore. Sally realized that Jesus would outshine her. The light that baby would bring to the world was far more powerful than her starlight. Jesus would show the world how great God’s love really is.

“That’s okay,” Sally thought to herself. “As long as people remember why I lit up the sky, that’s what’s important. As long as they remember that Jesus is the Light the world really needs and they share that Light with each other, that’s all that matters.”

The Angel Gabriel happened to be nearby and overheard Sally. He said with pride, “Sally, my little star, you really are a super star! Maybe those little people down there will take a cue from you and do what they need to do to show the way to God’s Light and Love because the world needs more superstars!”

Sally laughed and said, “Oh, there’s lots of Light in the world. People just have to want to shine brighter, do something great, and be a superstar to light up their little places in the world.”

Sally and Gabriel smiled at each other and started searching through the nights for all those who will shine brighter, do something great, and be a superstar as they light up the world with God’s love.

RCL – Year A – Christmas Day – December 25, 2016

Proper I
Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus  2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

Proper II
Isaiah 62:6-12
Psalm 97
Titus 3:4-7
Luke 2:(1-7) 8-20

Proper III
Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12)
John 1:1-14

Photos: CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe

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