by Carol Dixon
A few years ago, our nativity play was enlivened by a small boy who had been running around getting in the way until one of the Junior Church leaders persuaded him to watch for the wise men. While the rest of the action took place on the stage, he kept his eyes firmly on the door at the back and when the three kings started to process down the aisle he leapt up in delight, flung his arms in the air shouting, ‘They’re coming, they’re coming!’ to the congregation. And as the procession got nearer to the front, he rushed up on stage shouting to the angels and shepherds ‘Look, they’re coming’, then across to Mary and Joseph still calling out in excitement, ‘They’re coming’ and his spontaneous joy infected the whole congregation.
In the Eastern orthodox churches, they celebrate Christmas on 6 January because they think the story isn’t complete until the arrival of the Wise Men so their nativity plays usually take place at Epiphany rather than before Christmas and one year for our service on the first Sunday in January, I wrote an Epiphany nativity called ‘Late arrivals’. (You might like to imagine the scene as you read it through.)
Late Arrivals: A sketch for Epiphany
Dramatis personae: Interviewer; 3 kings, 1 ‘Star’. Enter 3 kings following a young person carrying star on top of a pole.
Interviewer: You’re a bit late for the nativity play. That was weeks ago.
King 1: Well, we had a bit of bother getting here. (Glares at star) We seemed to have been following a wandering star!
Interviewer: You certainly made enough noise. I thought you must be arriving on Harley Davidsons.
King 2: No, just the usual way; camels.
Interviewer: Camels? It doesn’t mention camels in the Bible story.
King 3 (defensively): Well, maybe not, but they’re still the best way to cross the desert. They don’t need much to drink and they know where they’re going (glaring at the star).
Interviewer (sarcastically): More than you seem to anyway. You’re meant to be wise men. Not very wise heading straight for Herod. I thought you had a star to guide you?
King 1 (sheepishly): It got a bit cloudy towards the end of the journey.
King 2 (wearily): We’d been travelling for ages.
King 3 (lamely): And a palace seemed the obvious place to look for a baby king.
King 1: We never imagined he’d be born in an outhouse!
King 2: And in any case, WE didn’t know Herod was horrid.
Interviewer: I thought Everybody knew Herod was horrid!
King 3: It was a genuine mistake.
Interviewer (aside): Some mistake!
King 1 (shortly): We can’t be right all the time.
King 2 (apologetically): We didn’t mean to cause any trouble.
King 3: We weren’t to know Herod was going to kill off all the likely candidates for kingship.
Interviewer: I thought you guys could read the stars and tell everyone’s fortunes – see into the future.
King 1: If we could have foreseen the future we would have foreseen our sore feet
King 2: And realised how long it would take us.
King 3: And have some idea of the way back home.
Interviewer: You mean you wish you hadn’t come – that you’d never started on this journey?
King 1: Of course we’re glad we came. It’s just…
King 2: We didn’t know what to expect….
King 3: A baby born in a poor part of town….
King 1: Who transformed our lives…
King 2: Exceeded our expectations….
King 3: And made us realise that the journey goes on…..
Star grins at them, and sets off with the kings following.
(Song by Sheila Hamil from ‘the Christmas Story). Used with permission
For me, the Star is the star of the story. Even though the wise men managed to get themselves lost, it was still there to guide them to Jesus if they had looked in the right direction. So often in the bustle & busyness of Christmas and New Years, we let our attention wander and focus on the wrong things instead of looking for the light which will lead us to Jesus. This year, I have been reading the wonderful Advent book Lean Towards the Light this Advent & Christmas by Christine Sine and Lisa DeRosa and I have found all the different reflections by Godspacelight writers in it so helpful in getting me focused on looking upwards to the heavens rather than keeping my eyes on the ground. As a child, I loved stargazing which was very easy to do in a country town like Alnwick in Northumberland since our street lights were always switched off at midnight and if I woke in the night I would look out of my bedroom window to see if I could count the stars. I never managed to do it but I knew there were lots of them.
I sometimes use Christmas stars to help me to pray. I make a bunch of cardboard stars and cover them with glitter on one side. On the bare side, I write the name of a person or situation I know to be in need of prayer, then I hang the star on the Christmas tree and each time I see it, I remember to pray for that person. When I take the tree down on 6 January I use the stars as prayer cards which I then send it to the person mentioned to let them know they have been in my prayers.
One of my favourite Epiphany carols is Sydney Carter’s ‘Every star shall sing a carol’ and when my sons were teenagers they recorded a rather different version of it.
(Music performed by Simon & Colin Dixon; Sung by Carol Dixon)
What star will you follow this year, I wonder?