Dreaming in Delaware: Hanging Stars
Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight…
The wish that wells up is too big for words.
Where is it hurting? Everywhere.
We need a celestial hug of the whole planet.
It’s dark at night outside the Grandview house. Ours is the only residence with just a porch light on. Lockdown for us includes quarantining inside the walls as well as out because community service comes with risks as health care workers know too well. Covid tests, inside masks, no parent-child hugs and off-limit spaces make the season safer, if less festive. The tree and lights remain boxed in the attic. I’m already planning for Christmas in July.
My appreciation for our neighbors’ outside lights edges toward envy when I find an old photo of our father holding a star. It dates from the days they sojourned in Texas, so I’m sure the star came from a 3rd hand store in Llano.
I need a star, just one star, to celebrate both the night and the light of the world. Iit arrives the same day I read about The Great Conjunction. Jupiter and Saturn, the two biggest worlds in our known solar system, will draw so close on the Solstice, December 21, that there will be 0.1 degree of separation.
This will be the closest they’ve come since 2000, the start of the 21st century, but they were barely visible then. The next date was 1623, although the visibility was limited for that time as well. My philosophical theologian, William Wesley, informs me that Blaise Pascal was born in 1623. He asks if I want to bet on it, then has to remind me of Pascal’s wager.
Pascal’s wager is a bet on the existence of God, who is understood as infinitely Good. You bet on the question of whether God is or isn’t. You wager your life on the answer. Pascal’s advice: Live as if God exists. If God isn’t, your loss is negligible. If God is, and you believe, you avoid infinite loss, and receive infinite gain. That’s another way to say, “Heaven”, I guess, or forever and ever, amen.
I have a sudden flashback to my WV Board of Ministry deacon’s interview, held after my first year in seminary at Duke. I’ve written a creed with this line: God is infinite Good. They ask me where I got this notion. Since it seems self-evident, I have trouble explaining. They grumble a bit, then reassure me that I’ll have a better answer after I take systematic theology. A lifetime later, I’m still betting on my first answer.
I get curious about the other date when The Great Conjunction was closest and able to be seen: 1226. That’s the year Francis of Assisi, brother to the sun, moon and stars ended his earthy earthly life. He bet his life on loving all that lives and moves and has its being in the Holy One who is infinitely Good, and so do those of us who also gamble on the goodness of the first born of creation.
Was the Great Conjunction the Star of Bethlehem? God knows. Most astronomers say that the 2020 conjunction will not appear like a star; the planets aren’t close enough, but if you have poor vision, you might see them blurring together.
Given our circumstances, I find that prediction encouraging. For the here and now, at Grandview, it’s time to hang a star.