For the second year running the Church of England’s Christmas campaign is ‘Follow the Star’. Someone I was chatting to thought they should have had a new strapline for this year, just as in previous years. But I do like ‘Follow the Star’… I could make a bit more of it this year…
We may not normally talk about ‘following people’. It might seem an odd word to use unless we mean it literally. But we do follow people. We might follow celebrities or the Royal Family. We might follow political parties or particular politicians. We follow world events or local community news. Or we may just ‘follow’ a friend.
We are also influenced by these things and people. Few of us have very original thoughts! But we pick things up from others, and sometimes adapt them or formulate our own views from them. We might just like the wallpaper in our friend’s house, so we have the same!
Some of us follow people on social media like Facebook or Twitter. It doesn’t mean we agree with everything they say, and we might follow them just to be aware of what they are saying or doing, rather than to agree. We might like their thoughts; we might respond to them – positively or negatively; we might add our own thoughts to theirs; a conversation or dialogue is started.
At the time of Jesus it was common practice for people to follow a religious teacher. John the Baptist had followers (or disciples), and soon after Jesus started his ministry he called people to follow him. In John’s gospel, though, he gains his first two disciples from John the Baptist – without calling them:
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. (John 1, verses 35-39)
We are not told what happened when they went home with Jesus, but they spent time together, and that must have included chatting and sharing thoughts. They were attracted to Jesus and wanted to be with him.
But back to ‘following stars’… That’s what was happening a few years earlier when Jesus came into the world. Ann Brown has contributed a thought-provoking poem about that for us this year:
Epiphany Journey – Revelation
The most unlikely people journeyed towards that star.
Rough shepherds, the night workers hidden away on the hillsides.
The magi with their strange gifts,
crossing cultures, customs and religions,
often mistrusted, considered mysterious.
The most unlikely people set out on that unknown journey,
yet towards a destination pre-determined by God.
Heard the angels, read the message in the scriptures,
answered the call, followed that light,
their energy, their determination coming from deep within.
Unlikeliest people still follow,
their destination unknown,
the mystery, a sense of awe leading them on.
The unexpected revelations of God’s Son,
like interactive ripples then flow
outwards into the world.
The unlikeliest people journey with God.
But it’s not about stars in the end; it’s about people – ‘unlikely people’, people like you and me.
I wonder what you follow… I wonder who you follow… Do you yearn for something? Are you attracted to something? Do you feel like you’re on a ‘journey’ – but what exactly is it?
You may like to make your own star for St Mary’s Christmas tree this year (see the news item called Starry Night) – it might have a special meaning for you. You may like to come along to one of our Christmas services when we’ll think more about following the star.
I wonder what following the star could mean for you and me this Christmas and New Year.
With every blessing for this special time of year