(a tribute to Conrad Aiken’s “ONE STAR FELL AND ANOTHER”)
Where are all the stars?
Just twelve days ago, they were all over the place! On the tops of our Christmas trees, adorning mantle pieces and little girls’ angel costumes, decked across our yards, hanging from rearview mirrors. I saw them everywhere!
Now, one by one, those dramatic stars seem to have made their departure. Some crashed from the tree before we could catch them. Others are now carefully stored away for next year. The stars on our houses, on our pageant costumes, those strewn across our living rooms, are all likewise put away.
Thus, I find it odd that, as Epiphany arrives in our Christian calendar, all our stars have disappeared. Epiphany, of course, is meant to be the remembrance of three wise men following a star to the infant Jesus. Thus, Jesus is made real even to foreign travelers, to people who were different from his people, even to people who may have believed differently from his people. We Christians claim to follow the star, too, and to make it real to the world.
Yet, as the Feast of Epiphany arrives, many of our stars are gone. Even if we have a big bash on Epiphany night, we rarely keep any star visible after that night. Last week, my wife and I spent some time stargazing, out where the sky was cold and crisp. All we saw were stars, thousands of them, some still, and others shooting across the horizon. Oh, that our world could be so full of stars throughout the year!
I remembered this strong poem, from Conrad Aiken (from Savannah, the first Georgia-born winner of a Pulitzer Prize), in which he urges us to be prodigal with our stars – with our words and with our gifts.
One star fell and another as we walked.
Lifting his hand towards the west, he said--
--How prodigal that sky is of its stars!
They fall and fall, and still the sky is sky.
Two more have gone, but heaven is heaven still.
Then let us not be precious of our thought,
Nor of our words, nor hoard them up as though
We thought our minds a heaven which might change
And lose its virtue, when the word had fallen.
Let us be prodigal, as heaven is:
Lose what we lose, and give what we may give,--
Ourselves are still the same. Lost you a planet--?
Is Saturn gone? Then let him take his rings
Into the Limbo of forgotten things.
O little foplings of the pride of mind,
Who wrap the phrase in lavender, and keep it
In order to display it: and you, who save our loves
As if we had not worlds of love enough--!
Let us be reckless of our words and worlds,
And spend them freely as the tree his leaves;
And give them where the giving is most blest.
What should we save them for,--a night of frost? . . .
All lost for nothing, and ourselves a ghost.
(Conrad Aiken, 1935)
At Christmas, we have celebrated giving. Maybe the season of Epiphany is about giving away stars. Maybe we are supposed to be giving away stars as often as God gives things away. If so, we can trust that even if the stars fall, “still the sky is sky. Two more have gone, but heaven is heaven still.”
May the Spirit of Epiphany giving be with you, and with all of us, throughout this year. Yes, let us be reckless, lavish, with our gifts of love, with our “words and worlds, and spend them freely as the tree his leaves; and give them where the giving is most blest.”