Epiphany: Following the Star

About this article

This Lectionary-based prayer reflection can be used with teens or adults to celebrate the Epiphany.

Scripture

  • Isaiah 60:1-6. Camels bringing gold and frankincense will follow the light.
  • Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6. The Gentiles are heirs with the Jews.
  • Matthew 2:1-12. Astrologers followed the star, found Jesus, and brought him gifts.

Theme

Isaiah foretold that nations would gather to follow the light and offer gifts. The story of the Magi has glamour, danger, and courage. It is a story of accepting the journey to an unknown place; following the star because of faith. And it is a story of Gentiles coming to visit Jews, bringing gifts, and being welcomed.

Focusing Object

A star, or a tray with gold (jewelry), frankincense (incense), and myrrh (skin oil)

Reflections For Adults

In the story of the Magi we are dealing with an extraordinary child. The star is so brilliant that astrologers follow it in faith--not knowing who they will find, but needing to make the journey. "Following a star" has become a metaphor for following your dream, pursuing your calling, or making an ideal you believe in become a reality.

  • What star have you followed? What dream might you still be pursuing? What ideal do you believe in and work toward?
The ones who had faith and followed the star to worship the newborn Messiah were not Jews but Gentiles! It was unheard of for Jews and Gentiles to mix, but these Gentiles came, brought gifts, and were welcomed into the home.
  • What do you think is the significance of Gentiles rather than Jews being featured in the Epiphany story?
  • Name a group you never thought you would mix with, a group toward whom you now feel tolerant, accepting, and understanding. What is it like reflecting on your change of heart? How did it come about?
  • Name a group you still have difficulty accepting. What might it take for you to have a change of heart? Is it possible?

For Teenagers

The astrologers in the Magi story went through quite a journey in search of the baby Jesus. They obviously believed in him and had faith in the star.

  • Have you ever "followed a star"? Have you ever gone after a dream or an ideal you believed in? Are you still going after it? What gives you the energy to keep going? How do you know it is worth it?
The gifts brought by the Magi have significance. Gold is a symbol of wealth and fidelity. Frankincense is burned to purify the atmosphere by releasing an aromatic and pleasing smell. For centuries, Native Americans have burned holy smoke in order to bless and purify themselves, and monks have watched incense rise to the sky as a symbol of their prayers ascending to God. Myrrh is a kind of resin or oil used for anointing and embalming. It is a symbol of comfort and soothing (who doesn't enjoy a rubdown?) but it is also a foreshadowing of death.
  • How were these gifts symbolic for Jesus?
  • What three gifts would be symbolic of you and your life so far? Explain the symbolism.

For Children

  • The Magi following the star rode their camels a long distance to find Jesus. What do you think their journey was like? What do you think the fun parts were? What do you think the most difficult parts were? Would you have gone with them if they had asked you?
  • What is the best present you ever received? What is the best present you ever gave anyone? If you had lots and lots of money, what present would you like to give someone? Who would you give it to?

Closing

Once they saw a star
that pointed to a promised land,
to a land of peace.
Peacemakers set out to follow that star.

It is both a joyful and arduous journey.
Sometimes the star shines brightly,
the promise seems certain,
and the pilgrims can sing,
"How beautiful are the feet of those
who bring God's peace."
Often the star disappears,
clouded over, hidden from view,
and the pilgrims grope blindly,
grow discouraged, get weary,
give thought to settling down,
to forgetting the promise of peace.

One thing is certain:
all pilgrims need nourishment
to sustain the journey.
An occasional oasis for the spirit
is essential,
a time to feast on the refreshing waters,
the rich food of the spirit
in order to get strength
to continue the pilgrimage through darkness,
star-shine or not.

(One Hundred Graces)

Acknowledgments

Poem taken from One Hundred Graces, by Mary Lou Kownaski (NY: Bell Tower/Harmony Books, 1992), page 91. Copyright © by Mary Lou Kownaski and Pax Christi USA. Used with permission of Pax Christi USA.

(This poem is taken from In Touch with the Word: Lectionary-Based Prayer Reflections for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, by Lisa-Marie Calderone-Stewart [Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press, 1996], pages 70-72. Copyright © 1996 by Saint Mary's Press. Permission is granted for this prayer to be used for classroom or campus ministry purposes. This prayer may not be republished in any form without written permission from Saint Mary's Press. To order this book, contact Saint Mary's Press at 800-533-8095, or visit our online catalog at www.smp.org/catalog.cfm.)

Published December 18, 2003.