Star Words: A Bright Idea for a Family Christmas Gift


Each year I present my family with a shared Christmas gift. Tickets to a movie, a board game, and reservations at the bowling alley were all big hits; matching wool hats with pompoms, not so much. 

This year everyone is getting their own word. A “Star Word,” to be exact. This gift can be used all year long, takes just a few minutes to prepare, and costs no more than the paper on which it’s printed. I think it might just be the best family gift ever. 

Star Words are words that the recipient can use as a guiding word to draw them closer to God in the coming year. They’re drawn from a list of words worth pondering and printed on star-shaped pieces of yellow paper. Recipients tuck Star Words into their wallets, pin them on bulletin boards, post them on bathroom mirrors, or display the words in any other place where they’ll see it regularly. It’s a practice that was inspired by the way God used a star to guide the Magi to Jesus. 

The giving of Star Words isn’t a new concept. Many congregations have been using them during their Epiphany service for years. At Susan Foster’s church, the giving of Star Gifts is a much-anticipated practice. During worship people are invited (without peeking) to take from the offering plate one of more than 150 words that have been printed on star-shaped paper. They’re encouraged to reflect on that word during the coming year and think about how God might be speaking to them through that word. The words on their list include: 

  • Adventure
  • Awe
  • Beauty
  • Change
  • Commitment
  • Contemplation
  • Courage
  • Delight
  • Discovery
  • Encouragement
  • Faith
  • Freedom
  • Forgiveness
  • Gratitude
  • Generosity
  • Grace
  • Hopefulness
  • Healing
  • Joy
  • Music
  • Mercy
  • Peace
  • Perseverance
  • Power
  • Simplicity
  • Strength
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Time
  • Wisdom
  • Wonder

Rev. Marci Glass has been using similar words at her church too. In a post titled Star Words, Glass describes the thinking behind the practice in this way: “The premise is this: the magi followed the star to find baby Jesus, bringing their gifts. We are also seeking Jesus, trusting God can/does use many signs (or stars) to guide us closer to the Divine presence.” And Rev. Glass is a superstar—her post also includes a link to a timesaving downloadable set of more than 150 words in star shapes. 

Since there are six people in my immediate family, I’m going to use the smaller list of 25 words Rev. Traci Smith included in her Guiding Stars: An Epiphany Activity at Home post. (If you have young children in your family, you’ll also appreciate the ideas she includes for using Star Words with them.) Smith suggests having each person take their word from a basket but not share their words with each other until the following year. I think we’ll show each other the words we’ve drawn because (a) we’ll just be itching to tell each other and (b) it will prompt conversations about our experiences over the year. And instead of drawing our words from a basket, I’ll have each person pull their paper star out of one of the aforementioned matching wool hats with pompoms. #remember #reuse #recycle 

My hope for my household in handing out Star Words as part of our Christmas celebration is that each of us might become more attuned to what God is doing in our lives and more aware of what God might be calling us to do in the new year. And I can’t wait for the following Christmas when we share the stories of our words with each other before choosing new ones. 

Star Words: a meaningful gift that keeps on giving. No shopping, spending, or wrapping required. 

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Wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing!