Illuminating the way with flashlights, families and individuals wandered the grounds of Immanuel United Church of Christ during the congregation’s first Star Walk.
The event Sunday night, rescheduled due to last week's rainy weather, marked the Epiphany. The Christian feast day commemorates the visit of the magi, also known as the three wise men or kings, to the infant Jesus.
In the western tradition, Epiphany falls on the 12th or last day of Christmas, or Jan. 6, but is often celebrated by churches on the Sunday before that date. The Immanuel event had been scheduled for Jan. 3.
“We always do something special for Epiphany,” said Kelly Barnett, director of faith formation for the church at 99 S. Waverly St., Shillington.
Conceived by Barnett, the event incorporated time-honored traditions with engaging, family-friendly activities. Guided by maps, participants made their way among activity stations outside the church.
“The three kings followed a star that guided them to baby Jesus,” she said. “So people were invited to think of a person who provided guidance in their lives and write those names on star cutouts.”
The cutouts then were hung in the windows of the sanctuary, she said.
In a twist on the Epiphany custom of chalking the doors of homes with blessings for the new year, participants were given chalk to mark the sidewalks around the church, using the traditional pattern of numbers referring to the year and the letters “C+M+B.”
The initials stand for the customary names given to the three wise men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, Barnett said, noting their names and number are not specified in the account of their visit in the Gospel of Matthew.
The tradition of three is based on the three gifts presented by the Magi to the infant Christ: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The chalk pattern holds additional significance as an abbreviation of the Latin blessing “Christus mansionem benedicat,” meaning, “May Christ bless this house,” she said.
Families were welcome to take the chalk home after the Star Walk to mark their own sidewalks and doors.
“I like the idea that families come to this event but also get to take something home with them,” Barnett said. “We ask blessings on our homes because our houses belong to Christ.”
The event was open to the public and all were welcome, she said, noting precautionary guidelines were followed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“After months of isolation and social distancing due to the coronavirus,” she said, “people were even more grateful than usual for the opportunity to gather as a community.”