Hymn of the Day - Advent to Epiphany

Jan 02 Look at the stars – Peter Haskins

Look at the stars
Words and music by Pete Haskins
© Pete Haskins

Peter Haskins

Peter Haskins

If you're feeling lost and you're all alone,
And you wonder, does anyone care?
Then raise your eyes; look at the skies
In the cool, clear evening air,
In the cool, clear evening air.

Then behold the stars in the heavens on high.
While they look all the same,
The God of Love knows them all above,
And he calls each one by name,
And he calls each one by name.

When the world began many aeons ago,
The Lord stretched out his hand,
And he filled the nights with a billion lights
To shine at his command,
To shine at his command.

As your God on high knows every star,
Not one is lost or gone,
So then every face in the human race
Is cared for, every one,
Is cared for, every one.

Pete Haskins

Look up at the sky!
Who created the stars you see?
The one who leads them out like an army, he knows how many there are and calls each one by name!
His power is so great – not one of them is ever missing!
Israel, why then do you complain that the Lord doesn’t know your troubles
Or care if you suffer injustice?

Isaiah chapter 40, verses 26 and 27. (TEV)

It is with these words that the prophet seeks to console Israel after many years of oppression and suffering and to reassure them they are not forgotten. Many folk in our society today will be feeling ‘lost and alone’ as the pandemic continues to isolate and divide people. From those in care homes unable to have visits from their families, to people unable to cross county or area boundaries because of differing restrictions; to the young who are unable to gather socially, folk will need assurance they are not forgotten.

Does “Look at the stars” seem strange advice, then? Do we not feel small enough when we consider the universe around us? Yet Abraham was called with the words “Look at the sky and try to count the stars” when God assured him that he would be the father of a great nation, (Gen. 15:5) The psalmist rejoiced too when he said, “When I look at the sky, which you have made; the moon and the stars you set in their places, what is man that you think of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4) This was not a cry of despair, but an acclamation that though we are small in the vast cosmos, God cares for us none the less.

The Book of Job, too, speaks to us at this time. Having suffered calamity and now afflicted with disease, Job wrestles with the seeming injustice of it all. True, Job has friends who attempt to comfort him, but all their answers do is compound Job’s frustration. Perhaps it is here we see that sometimes loneliness is less about the physical distance between us and others, and more about times when we feel out of touch with them. In the end Job does receive a response from God, however, and he is caused to consider the mighty works of the Lord, and challenged, “Can you tie the Pleiades together or loosen the bonds that hold Orion? Can you guide the stars season by season and direct the Great and the Little Bear?” (Job 38:31-32)

In Job, we read, “…God teaches (people) through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes,” (Job 36:15) On a bright sunny day, what is the furthest thing we can see? It is the Sun itself, ninety three million miles away, but on the darkest night, how far can you see then? In good conditions you can see the Great Nebula in Andromeda, two million light-years away, - at an almost unimaginably greater distance. Just as we see furthest on the darkest night, it is often in darker moments in life we get deepest insights

The night sky and the stars have been a source of inspiration to hymn-writers, too. Joseph Addison’s hymn The Spacious Firmament on High reflects on Psalm 19, - “The heavens declare the glory of God”, while Oliver Wendell Holmes’ Lord of all being, throned afar reminds us that while God’s glory “flames from sun and star,” and he is “..centre and soul of every sphere,” he is “to every loving heart, how near.” Isaac Watts writes “The heavens declare thy glory Lord, in every star thy wisdom shines…” and “Sun, moon and stars convey thy praise.” For Watts, looking at the stars becomes a prelude to encountering God in Scripture. Sidney Carter, while thinking of Christ’s universal cosmic significance, wrote “Every star shall sing a carol”.[1]

So let us not forget, the wise men were led to the Christ child by following a star. (Matt 2:1-12). Perhaps, then, as we look at the stars, we too, will be reminded of the all-encompassing power of God’s love.

Prayer

Lord, we pray in these strange and difficult times,
that by the power of your Holy Spirit,
our sense of isolation and distance from each other
may be overcome,
and we may feel a sense of your eternal fellowship.

We consider those for whom this has been an especially difficult time;
those who grieve for the loss of a loved-one,
yet not having been able to say goodbye at their bed-side;
those in care homes or isolation, deprived of contact with families;
children and young people whose education has been disrupted,
but unable to meet and play with friends;
health and front-line workers who work long hours,
yet need to maintain a safe distance from others.

Lord, remind us, as we gaze at the amazing universe around us;
as we take in the splendor of the night sky
and that while we may feel small and alone,
Your love will always be with us.

Amen.

[1] ‘The spacious firmament on high’, Joseph Addison (1672-1719); ‘Lord of all being, throned afar’, Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-94); ‘The heavens declare thy glory, Lord’, Isaac Watts (1674-1748); ‘’Every star shall sing a carol’, Sydney Carter (1915-2004).

Audio of hymn

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