Why We Follow The Star


By Carolyn Shields

I’ve always loved stargazing. Growing up, my mom used to tell us kids that whenever we did something nice, we earned a star in heaven. Later on in life and living just south of the Mason Dixon Line, stargazing was such a powerful form of prayer for me. I would grab all my wool, maybe a cigar or a beer, and drive to my cornfield where I would park my car and crawl up on my hood. So when I moved to the city, I worried about what impact my prayer life would go through sans stars. After my interview here, I remember driving back on I-76 and watching the clock to see how long it would take me to get out of the city in order to star gaze. When I stayed in Uganda for a few weeks right before my interview, God totally romanticized me by the stars south of the equator.

So why is it that a star is what pointed the magi and the shepherds to the newborn King? Why is it we deck our Christmas trees with it?

The magi saw “his star rising in the sky,” and “Behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the manger they saw the child…”

Not only were the magi and the shepherds wise enough to have their sights set on heaven in order to catch this miracle, but they made the connection with the promise made to Abraham, how his descendants would be like the stars of heaven. Since Jesus is one of those descendants, surely He would stand out! We also know that in the Old Testament, specifically Numbers 24:17, we are told that “a star shall advance from Jacob.” Lastly, no people, no country or ruler can claim a star. They are for everyone. And the fact that the magi came from the East reminds us that the Gift of our Lord, the Son, is for everyone.

Sometimes we might get lost on the way to find Him, but it’s on the darkest nights when the moon is hidden that the stars shine brightest. And when we need a guide that is a bit more grounded, let us remember Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s words: “The saints have themselves gradually become constellations of God…by whom we let ourselves be led to Him for whom our whole being longs.”