My congregation celebrated Epiphany one week early this year, on December 28, the last Sunday of 2014. It was the reading assigned as part of our congregation's experiment with a different set of Scripture readings for the year, called the "Narrative Lectionary." I had also been thinking, since almost this time last year, about a using an worship experience called "Star Words" in our services on Epiphany Sunday. Different words, suited to meditation and guidance, words you can think about and chew on and even consider a gift, are printed on stars and given out to worshippers on the day we hear about the magi who followed the star. Each person chooses a word from the pile; that word becomes their word for the year, whatever the implications may be.
Some of the words we used: vision. writing. inspiration. joy. discernment. service. teaching. time. comfort. responsibility. There were 163 words in all, so some we used more than once. We printed them on pretty yellow stars with blue backs, the kind you can get at an art supply store. On Sunday morning, we gave them out as people came up for communion, but at our small Saturday evening service there were only about 12 of us (it was the weekend after Christmas, after all), so I chose my star as part of the sermon, and we had everyone else choose their stars as well.
A new woman, sitting in the back of the chapel, got the word 'wisdom.' Someone else, who I knew had experienced much loss this past year, got 'strength.' A 91 year old man got 'leadership.' Another woman, I remember, got the word 'judgment', and I could tell that she felt sort of uneasy about that. She wanted a different word. But for myself, I was relieved that if someone had to get the word judgment, it would be her, because she is one of the kindest, most gracious people I know. I would be assured about her judgments.
We worried a bit about whether we had enough stars (we did). Someone said if we ran out, people could make their own. It was hard to explain that making your own wasn't the point; the point was picking a word which you did not choose. I did tell a couple of people that they could choose another word, if they really felt the first one doesn't fit. But the second one has also to be chosen from the pile as well; you can't decide for yourself what your word will be, which is different, I think, from so much of our experience. Like New Year's resolutions and goals, you make a list of what you want to do, who you want to be, and then you work on making it happen. But the star is different. It is not about what you make of your life, but about what comes to you, what is given to you.
As for me, I got the word "solitude."
I thought it an odd choice for the pastor, since so much of my vocation involves being around people. Someone else did too: she offered to change words with me. She got "service", and was willing to take my "solitude."
I won't lie: I knew what many of the words were, and I was kind of hoping for 'inspiration' (which was at the top of the star pile at one time) or 'time' or even 'writing' (something which would be on my list, if I was constructing a life). But, instead I got 'solitude,' which I know, deep in my heart, is a gift, and which I both desire and fear, at the same time. I know I need solitude, but I am not always sure what I will find when I am alone with myself. Or maybe I suspect that I do know, and that is the problem. Will solitude be inspiring for me, or will it be a big, empty space? What will God say to me, if I give God room to say it?