31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
January 3, 2021
Almost exactly twelve years ago today, the First Congregational Church, UCC in Bristol, CT began the tradition and spiritual practice of Star Gifts; however the ritual of Star Gifts goes back much farther than that. I brought it from my former congregation, which learned it from South Church in New Britain, which learned it from I don’t know who. And in this journey of star gifts, we have shared the spiritual practice on, and in turn, had it shared back to us in new and improved ways.
Star gifts are not magic. They are simply copy paper with spiritual words and scripture verses printed on them. They are not magic; however they can be a powerful tool for discerning God’s presence in our lives and God’s calling for our future. We trust that God is still speaking; we trust that God is always calling; and we trust that God is guiding our journeys – and sometimes that happens through a star.
Some years, I have a clear hope right away for what my star might mean. Sometimes at year’s end, I am still wondering. Star gifts help us discern God’s path, and sometimes, discernment takes time. This year though, my star gift became especially clear in March.
My star gift this past year was “courage”. The accompanying scripture verse is from Joshua. After Moses’ death, Joshua was called by God to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. In the first chapter of the book of Joshua, God says to Joshua “Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.” (Joshua 1:6)
Last January, I initially discerned that God was calling me to continue leading this community of ministers into the new, embracing new ways to share God’s love through worship and service. Then in March, that journey into the new became super accelerated as we all had to learn new ways of being The Church. And for me, that journey has taken courage.
It has taken courage to be calm and faithful in the midst of so much change, loss, and anxiety. It has taken courage as I have had to figure out what God is calling me to say yes to and what to say no to. It has taken courage to reinvent the sacraments and traditions of the Church – with outdoor baptisms, virtual communion, and online worship services.
Growing up, my home church spoke together words of commissioning before we left worship each week. The words were a reminder of our calling as ministers of Jesus Christ, and they began “Let us now go forth into the world with courage.”
Courage was my star gift for 2020 however I thank each and every one of you for going forth in courage with me as we have both stayed faithful to God and embraced new ways to be Christ’s church.
I am so thankful for Patti, Sara, and Tom who have all recorded thoughts about their 2020 star gifts to be shared with us in worship this morning.
It is the goal of the Tech Deacons for worship to feel as close to being together in the Sanctuary as possible. Traditionally, during the singing of “We Three Kings”, everyone would be invited to come forward and choose a star gift. This year, we have a few ways you can choose your 2021 star gift: sign up to come in after worship, see what comes in the mail, or choose one right now during the Time of Discernment.
In a moment, the virtual adult choir will sing We Three Kings and you will see a video of those who came yesterday to choose their stars. That will be followed by pictures of different star gifts. Before we get to the pictures, you may wish to discern if God is calling you to a particular color or the star in the such and such number picture. If you discern that one of these virtual stars is yours, please let me know and I will mail it to you.
As I say every year, choose your star because it is your favorite color; Choose your star because it is your favorite number. Close your eyes and pick one at random. However you choose, trust that God’s spirit is leading you. Trust that God’s spirit is calling you to pick the right star gift to lead you in 2021, the right star gift to help you embrace new ways to praise God, nurture your faith journey, and change lives and the world with Christ’s love.
I also say this every year and I’m going to continue saying it. Do not assume you know immediately why you got this particular star gift. DO-NOT-presume you know right away why you got this particular star. I say this every year because some one always says to me “Why did I get ‘giving’? I’m already a giving person.” Or “Wow! I’m surprised you got faith. I wouldn’t have guessed you needed more faith.” It is not because I lack faith that I got it as my 2013 and 2018 star gift.
Do not assume you immediately know why you got this star gift. Star gifts are an instrument for discerning God’s calling, and discernment takes openness and time, sometimes a year and sometimes more than a year.
If you are 12 or younger and pick a star with a word you do not understand, then you can pick another star. There are no do-overs for teenagers and adults if you do not like your star. Each star gift has a scripture reference on it that may help as you figure out where God is leading you in 2021- which hopefully for all of us is out of the house!
So be spirit led in choosing a star and then place your star gift somewhere you will see it every day. On the mirror in your bedroom, on the refrigerator, in your work or learning space. Put your star gift somewhere you will see it and ask “Where are You leading me, Holy God? What are You saying to me?”
And then, when you have discerned where God is calling you with your star, or even when you have an inkling, go forth in courage and change lives and the world with Christ’s love.
As we listen and join in singing “We Three Kings”, I invite you to join me in being open to God’s guiding spirit.