You are a star. But probably not the kind you think. In modern America “star” has become synonymous with “celebrity”. But that is not what I, nor Saint Paul, mean when we say that you are a star.
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” [Philippians 2:14-16a]
You shine as lights in the world. The word “lights” has the meaning of stars. You shine as stars in the world, as you hold fast to the word of life. But only as you hold fast to the word of life.
Human beings are not naturally stars that shine brightly. We are born, rather, as black holes. A star gives out light to the world. A black hole sucks in light. It holds everything in for itself.
Sin takes the beings that God created to be stars and it mutilates them into black holes, caved in on themselves, always taking and never giving.
Black holes take from God every good blessing, but never offer Him thanks, praise, and obedience in return. It is all fine and dandy that we get to live here on God’s green earth, with material and technological blessings that are the envy of the rest of the world. But how often do we stop to be thankful? Once a year at the end of November?
How hard do we work to be obedient to God’s commands? How much credit do we give to God and how much do we keep for ourselves? We are pulling in the blessings, the daily bread, but we are not giving out the light of service and praise.
Black holes take in the life and work of other people-other stars-but offer little, if anything, in return. A husband who lets his wife do all the housework without ever offering a single “thank you”. A wife who never stops to appreciate the hard work of her husband. Children of all ages who take the blood, sweat, and tears of their parents for granted.
We can fall into this trap when we are out and about shopping or eating at a restaurant. We expect the employees to be model people, polite, clean, hard working, but we do not always reciprocate. We are happy for them to serve us, because that is their job, they are being paid. But we can then treat them as our slaves, rather than as fellow human beings.
It is not as if we really have a choice. This is our default state. We are gaping black holes sucking in anything we think is good and useful, appropriating it all for ourselves. And then thinking nothing of giving back, returning thanks, or passing on a favor.
It is not, as we usually think, that darkness is empty. No, darkness is hungry. It is full of itself, and it wants more from everyone else.
Black holes are conceited. They see others as rivals, competition, as less significant than themselves. Black holes have not the mind of Christ, but the mind of the world, the devil, and the sinful nature.
And then enters Jesus, shining like the Sun, brilliant in radiance. Jesus lives His life as the one true Light illuminating the darkness, always giving, never taking.
Jesus lived as the brightest Sun amidst and ocean of black holes. He lives a life of perfect humility, submitting not only to His Father in heaven, but also to the needs of the men and women around Him.
Jesus shone His light as He walked in perfect obedience to the commands of God. He rejoiced in even the simplest of gifts from His Father.
Jesus gave light to the world, healing the sick when He was tired; feeding the hungry when He needed to retreat; giving out forgiveness when He needed none; raising the dead as He headed toward His own grave. The Christ emptied Himself just as everyone else was ready and willing to gorge themselves upon Him.
He went up to the cross to give, what seemed at the time, to be the last of His light, the final ray of His brilliance. Jesus poured out His life for the hungry black holes, for you, for me. And His light went out.
But the Son rose three days later. And He was brighter than ever. Now His light could not simply be pulled in by the black holes. Now He had conquered the darkness. Any who took in His light became light themselves. The black holes were transformed into stars shining brightly in the midst of the world for all to see.
Jesus eclipsed the power of the gaping black holes and gave you His own light. He ignited your flames with His Spirit and Word. And now you are stars, lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.
It is that word, that Gospel, that good news which Jesus uses as the catalyst to change dark vacuums into shining stars. To hear of Christ and His humble suffering and death, to hear of Jesus and His glorious resurrection, His luminous exaltation, is to be lit on fire. All that useless gas that we carry around with us is ignited and we begin to burn bright.
As we hold fast to the Word of life, as we cling to Jesus in the Gospel, as we trust His work of death and resurrection for our salvation, we remain as shining stars.
And what do stars do? As I mentioned earlier, we think of stars as celebrities, those who engage in endless self-promotion. But that is not what the stars were to Jesus, to Saint Paul. The stars were guides in the night sky. They pointed the way north. They formed constellations to show you how to make your way home.
That is our role as stars too. We are not here to promote ourselves. We are here to point others to Jesus. We are to aid in guiding them to the light of the Savior. Our borrowed light directs them to the source of warmth and life. There they too will find forgiveness of their many sins, they will find rest for their souls, they will find hope for the days ahead. They will find life in the Sun.