When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Psalm 8:3-4
It was the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the church year, and the preacher had begun the familiar preparation sermon. “Prepare the way of the Lord,” the preacher toned from the high pulpit. “All who have ears let them hear.” Directly over the preacher’s head was a traditional Moravian star, nearly six feet across, lit for the first time just minutes before.
As the preacher moved into his second page, the huge star suddenly jolted and slipped several inches from the ceiling where it was attached. Though it didn’t fall farther, it twirled ominously over the head of the preacher. He stopped mid-sentence and looked out at the congregation. “It is apparent to me that not one of you in this entire church is looking in my direction.” Following the gazes of the parishioners, he looked up and quickly stepped back out of the line of the potentially descending star. Ushers flew into action and after several minutes, it was determined that the star was secure and service could continue.
Certainly the descent of the Advent star became the sermon that day and perhaps more importantly, the star caused the congregation to look up. It is what that first star over Bethlehem did too. “They looked up and saw a star, shining in the east beyond them far; And to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night. Noel, noel, Born is the King of Israel.”
Looking up is good work for the first Sunday in Advent. It is also good work for the coming new calendar year. When I was in junior high and feeling particularly adventuresome, I used to join my friends to take the bus uptown to capitol square in Madison, Wisconsin. We delighted in standing on the sidewalk and pretending to look intently at something high up on the capitol building. Through we were just a bunch of kids, it was very hard for most folks to pass by without looking up too. When that happened, we would giggle and move on.
Perhaps, in the human spirit there is an inner capacity for looking up, for looking beyond ourselves. There are many good reasons for looking up. Psalm 8 offers a wonderful “looking up” reason. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4
Looking up reminds us of how small we are compared to the universe, to all creation. It helps us to be humble. Looking up gives us the feeling that we are part of something so big and cosmic that we can do anything. It gives us power and confidence. Looking up lifts us out of ourselves for a little while so that we can try some new thing, or take a risk, or rise beyond what is usually expected. It energizes us. Looking up may be a way of connecting with those we have loved who have died. It gives us hope.
Looking up is transforming because that is where we might imagine God to be, and looking up connects us with God in some new way. It strengthens our faith. Looking up is not idealistic or impractical because we look up with our two feet firmly planted on the ground where we need to be.
So climb a hill. Take a walk downtown. Look out your window. Keep looking up.
From Of Seasons & Sparrows by Bishop Kay Ward. © 2000 by Kay Ward and the Interprovincial Board of Communication.
From the December 2013 Moravian Magazine