Do you know many of the constellations in the night sky? The main one that I hope you know is the Southern Cross! In Paul's letter to the Philippians he encourages them to “shine like stars in the universe as you hold onto the Word of Life” (2.15). So what can the stars tell us about how to live?
Firstly, they look so beautiful partly because they are set against the blackness of space, which reminds us that shining brightly doesn't usually happen until we face dark times. When everything is all bright and sunny then we don't see the stars. They are still there of course, but it isn't until the night comes, when things in life are hard or dark, that we see the stars shine.
So how do we respond when we are facing challenging times or find we are experiencing the dark night of the soul? We might sometimes feel like we are in a black hole, perhaps, but there are a myriad of stars shining out there to give us light! Who are the stars in your night-time, who can shine on you and give you hope and encouragement when things are tough? And, of course, we too can be stars for others when they are in a dark space.
The other thing I think we can learn from the stars, relates to how we tend to look at them and see constellations. When we look at the Southern Cross, for example, this can help us find our way – in this case, to find south! For millennia, people have used the stars as a guide for navigating across the world, by sea or land. Each constellation is made up of lots of stars – some of them are brighter than others, some of them are older than others – but together, as we look at them, they can help us to navigate our lives.
So who are the constellations in your life that can give you direction? Which groups of people or communities do you draw guidance from? Trying to navigate things in life is too risky just by looking at one star, or by thinking that you by yourself – as a star – are all the light you need.
And I might just finish by saying that Paul wrote this while in jail, with no window to gaze out of to see the stars. He was literally in a dark place so perhaps we might imagine him remembering the night sky above Philippi, thinking of the way Christ is his guiding star, and the community of believers his constellation of stars, out there, shining in the universe.