The good folk over at WorkingPreacher’s Sermon Brainwave spend a pretty good amount of time during their Epiphany podcast on a tangent about the stars. After going back and forth about the delicate way in which a Christian preacher should treat astrology and suggesting that maybe the star is more Garmin GPS than it is horoscope giving future teller, they got me thinking about the fact that these wise men pay attention to the star at all.
They were tuned into stars. They paid enough attention to the night sky to realize that something new had appeared. “We saw the star at its rising,” they told Herod, “and we’ve come to pay homage to the newborn king.” Star gazing isn’t a part of my personal spirituality, but listening for God’s call certainly is. Whether you are Zoroastrian or Christian, the key to a fulfilling religious life is paying attention.
God might work through stars. God might work through loved ones. God might work through budgets or car repairs or the struggles of addiction. There are myriad ways in which God can come to us, seeking to “wonderfully restore” our relationship with God and with the world He created, but if we aren’t paying attention, if we aren’t attuned to the voice of God, then most likely we’ll miss an opportunity for great things, and the key to paying attention is practice.
As TKT said in his sermon yesterday, a life of prayer is one in which God speaks, something happens, and we respond. When our response is more often than not to actually do something, to see God’s hand at work and to roll up our sleeves and join in, then we become more and more able to see God in the little things. We become accustomed to the nuances of the Spirit, the little nudges, the still, soft voice, the burning in our hearts. Paying attention to God at work in the big stuff, enables us to pay attention to God at work in the little stuff, and allows us the opportunity to see the amazing works of God all over our lives.
Yet the world is full of distraction. So many things battle for our limited attention. Often I’m so busy worried about me and my stuff that I forget to look for God in the world around me, and when I’m not paying attention, I miss out on opportunities to bless and be blessed that are beyond my wildest imagination. As I prepare to preach Christmas 2, while “off” this week and looking forward to 48 hours of nothing but football in the middle of it all, my prayer is that I can pay attention, that my eyes might be fixed on the hand of God, and that I might answer the call to follow his lead, no matter when he calls.