Have you seen the gorgeous star hanging on the portico of the Sanctuary?
This is a 26-point Moravian star. As a young girl, whenever my family drove from Lancaster to Annville, PA for the Seidel Family Christmas party, my brother and I liked to play a game – to see how many Moravian stars we could spot along the way. We always hit the jackpot in the town of Lititz, which was founded by Moravians in 1742. There were Moravian stars hanging on almost every porch and in every doorway. The local bank hosted a gigantic 6-foot star with over 110 points. In the midst of all the flashy holiday decorations, I loved these stars for their simple beauty and aura of peacefulness. But I always wondered where they came from…
Did you know that the Moravian church is the earliest organized Protestant denomination in the world whose roots predate Martin Luther’s kick-off of the Protestant Reformation by a good 100 years? The Moravians were followers of Jan Hus, a Roman Catholic priest who tried to reform the Roman Church but was burned at the stake for heresy in 1415. His followers organized themselves into the “Unity of Brethren” in 1457, but they called themselves Moravians since many of their founders were from the provinces of Moravia and Bohemia in what is now the Czech Republic. The Moravians were persecuted for centuries until they were offered refuge by Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf on his estate in Saxony, Germany in 1722. From there, they sent out missionaries all over the world, including America where Moravian communities flourished in PA and NC.
The first Moravian star was constructed by a student at a Moravian boarding school in Niesky, Germany in 1820 and used as a Christmas decoration. Because of their distinctive shape, the stars were used in teaching geometry lessons. The most common Moravian star has 26 points (like ours) and is made from 18 square-based pyramids and 8 triangular pyramids. This shape is technically known as an augmented rhombicuboctahedron, which is a mouthful! The stars were quickly adopted by Moravian communities around the world as Advent decorations and became a source of commercial enterprise for many of them.
Moravian stars are lit and hung at the beginning of Advent as a prophetic symbol of the Light coming into the world. Like the Star of Bethlehem, it leads us to the manger. On Christmas Eve, the star takes on even greater meaning as God’s promises are fulfilled in the birth of Christ, the Word made flesh, the Bright Morning Star as Jesus calls himself in Revelation 22:16. The star remains lit throughout the Christmas season and Epiphany, the darkest time of the year, to remind us all that the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. According to the Moravian Church in North America website, “It is a star of promise, a star of fulfillment, a star of hope.”
As you pass by our Moravian star, may it guide you to trust in God’s promises, to rejoice in the wondrous news of Christ’s birth, and to live in hope that God’s Light will shine in your heart this season and radiate throughout all the world.