In the middle of the night, with the wedding guests gathered around, the groom is led to a specially-prepared canopy. There, he is seated, facing north. A short time later, his bride is led in and is seated next to him. This is their first moment together during the wedding ceremony and they spend it gazing silently at the Pole Star. As they do so, they cherish the hope that their commitment to one another as husband and wife might be as steadfast as that star.
This newlywed couple are members of the Parkari Kohli tribe in Pakistan, for whom the Pole Star has been a cherished sign in the night sky for thousands of years. Living a semi-nomadic life in the vast and bleak Sindh desert, their lives are filled with movement, change and uncertainty. However, thanks to the Pole Star they never feel lost: its steadfastness provides them with a deep sense of security and serenity. Throughout the centuries, no matter where they have roamed in search of water and pastures for their flocks, the Pole Star has remained their faithful companion and guide.
Many educated and sophisticated people in other parts of the world might be tempted to see the Parkari Kohli’s way of life as primitive and dull. However, Columban missionaries, who have ministered in Pakistan for almost forty years, have come to appreciate their knowledge and love of the natural world. This tribe delights in gazing at the beauty of the Pole Star and its radiant companions on the vast canvas of the night sky, rather than watching movie stars and sports’ stars on a small screen.
Indeed, so many of us spend our nights gazing at television stars, and devote our days to following them on social media. Frequently, they become our guides to places where we shop, eat and recreate. These stars are constantly seeking new ways to attract and distract us. For them, steadfastness is boring. They prefer that we feel restless and insecure, constantly following the latest fashion, and always guided by the latest trends.
The Feast of the Epiphany is an invitation to us to reflect on the stars in our lives. Who are they? Why do we try so hard to follow them? Where are they leading us? In their search for the newborn King, the Magi faithfully followed a star to Bethlehem. In their search for water and pasture, the Parkari Kohli people are guided by the Pole Star. As a New Year dawns, what are you really searching for? And what star will be your guide?