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From the Goldfields: Stars

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From the Goldfields: Stars

by The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM | Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields

A moonless night in the Goldfields is both very dark, and very bright.

It’s easy to get away from house lights, street lights, and even the glow of the floodlights deep down in the Super Pit, where operations go on around the clock. If I drive a couple of kilometres out into the bush and allow a little time for my eyes to adjust, there are the stars, more of them than city-dwellers ever see.

By starlight I can see the horizon with its faint silhouettes of trees. I can pick out some familiar constellations. The Southern Cross and its pointers, tilted according to the season, show me the south. There is an arm of the Milky Way, our galaxy. There are dark places, cosmic clouds that block the light from the stars behind them. And there are the pin-pricks of a billion stars, some dim, some bright, nearby and remotely distant in astronomical terms. A planet or two wanders among them. Perhaps a jet blinks its way across the continent, a satellite orbits, or a meteor plunges earthwards in a flash of dying brilliance. In the bush, the night-time creatures go about their lives by starlight: tiny marsupials, busy insects, feral cats hunting, night birds foraging.

The stars belong to everyone. No matter who you are, the night sky is yours to wonder at. For as long as we have been human, we have craned our necks and looked for patterns. We tell the tales of the southern sky with European myths or, better in this land, Aboriginal songlines, like the stories about the Seven Sisters who travelled the western desert long before the Greeks named Orion the hunter and the Pleiades.

At this time of year, stars are everywhere by day as well as by night. They glitter on our Christmas cards and trees. Stars are, perhaps, the last of the Christian symbols still visible among the secular decorations, shining bravely above Santa, Rudolph and the latest seasonal visitor, the elf on the shelf.

The first Christmas star may have been a comet or a supernova, or it may have been a storytelling spark of genius. It was a message to people who had neither heard of the God of Israel nor read Israel’s scriptures. Since any star is everyone’s star, it could become the guiding star of those wise travellers. It brought them to meet God-with-us, Mary’s child, the Saviour of the world.

There are people today, like those first travellers, who have not yet heard of the God who loves us, and have not read the Gospel stories we treasure. Might they start travelling, beginning on a moonless night, in awe of the stars sprinkled prodigally over the dark heavens? It does not have to be a star of biblical significance to do the job. All the ordinary stars may serve to catch the eye of scientists and singers who may, in our day, glimpse the distant truth of a holy destination well worth the journey.

Published in Messenger December 2021

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