“Star Gifts”

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Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

January 3, 2016 – Epiphany Sunday

Matthew 2:1-12


It’s a story about spiritual seeking.

It’s a story about a journey of faith.

It’s a story about trusting your instincts, heeding God’s call, listening to the still, small voice.

And it’s a story about gifts. Many different gifts.

There were the gifts the wise men had. The gifts of inspiration and imagination… The gifts of attention paid to important signs and courage to follow their leading… The gift of resources for a long desert journey—camels and food and water and navigation… The gift of perseverance in seeking their goal.

Then there were the gifts the wise men gave. Gold and frankincense and myrrh, yes, but not only those. The gifts of recognition and value and importance for a family that was given none of those things by the powers that be… The gift of joy and celebration in the midst of difficult circumstances…

Then there were the gifts the wise men received. The gift of celestial guidance… The gift of warnings in dreams… The gifts of joy and satisfaction that came from finding that for which they had searched so long and traveled so far.


As you receive your star gift today, I wonder which of these categories it might fall into—a gift you may have, a gift you may give, a gift you may receive. Is the word on your star a gift you already possess, named and recognized here, perhaps in a new or thought-provoking way? Or does the word on your star represent a gift that is needed by a person or a community you know, a gift that you may be uniquely equipped to offer? Or is your word a gift you do not have now but might want or need to receive?

Perhaps the connection is obvious to you already. Perhaps it was clear as day as soon as you pulled out that star and turned it upright and read the word it carried. Perhaps you thought, Yeah, I guess laughter is a gift I have, or, Boy, I sure would love to receive some patience…now!

Or perhaps the word on your star brought you more of a furrowed brow than a smile of recognition. Perhaps you thought, What on earth would I do with purity? or, Why would I ever want more responsibility? or even, Oh, no, playfulness is definitely not for me!

But like the grandmother who fills Christmas stockings with toothbrushes and bars of soap, sometimes God gives us what we need, not what we might find most exciting or desirable.

Like the wedding guest who brings you and your new spouse the weirdest knickknack you’ve ever seen, a tchotchke so bizarre that you wonder what could have possessed them to spend money on it, let alone give it to you—or, for that matter, like the wise men who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to a newborn baby instead of diapers and onesies and casseroles—sometimes God’s gifts are not immediately recognizable.

Whatever gift you received, I hope you will ponder it as the story tells us Mary did. Perhaps you will find something within you confirmed. Perhaps you will find a new opportunity to give that something to those around you. Perhaps you will find that you receive some new something—maybe unanticipated, maybe long-desired—something that you cannot attribute to anyone else but God. And when that happens, however it happens, I hope you will tell us about it so that we, too, might catch a glimpse of God.

Whatever gift you received, however it comes to fruition, remember this: the gifts we receive are meant to be shared. Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

The light that shines within you is meant to be revealed. The light that shines upon you is meant to be reflected. The Light of the World is come, and just as the star was a sign for the wise men, so you are to be signs of that light for all to see, beacons to illumine the paths of your fellow travelers. Just as you have received star gifts, so you are to be star gifts.

Friends, your light is come. Let it shine.


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