Saturday, December 10, 2011


One of my oldest and dearest friends, a never failing Star Person in my life for over 40 years, has been a constant reminder to me that the Christian faith embodies far more than than what we see and hear from the extreme fundamentalists. As an ordained minister in the Methodist church he took a leave of absence to open and run The Yokefellow Center in Rising Sun, Maryland, patterned after the international Yokefellow movement started by the Quaker theologian, Elton Trueblood.

With his permission, I would like to share his Christmas letter.

The Yokefellow Center
36 N. Queen Street, POB 482
Rising Sun, Maryland 21911

Dear Yokefellow Friends,

The season of Advent comes again! What a wondrous season this can be for each of us. I recently placed 34 candles in the windows at the Yokefellow Center. We’ve done this for the past 27 years! The light from these candles represent the light of the Christmas Star, guiding those Wise People of old on their journey in search of the Baby in Bethlehem. The candles also remind me of the Star Persons who have guided me through the years to what Douglas Steere called the “Bethlehem of the heart.” I am grateful for each of them, for without their guidance, encouragement and light, I may never have embarked on the journey.

This year as I placed a candle in each window I named it for one of my Star Persons. It was quite an experience. I discovered that there were not enough candles or windows to name all those who have given me light for my journey. In American society there is a prevalent attitude that “rugged individualism” gets us where we want to go. We do it on our own, according to some, pulling ourselves up by our own shoe strings. This is certainly not true in my experience. John Donne said it so well: “No [one] man is an Island, entire of itself, every [one] man is a piece of the Continent…” We need “one another.” These two little words “one another” form one of the most important phrases in the New Testament. This all-important phrase is the reason the Yokefellow symbol is a double-Yoke instead of a single one.

Most of the Star Persons in my life (past and present) do not have great titles or hold important positions. They are just ordinary folk. But each one in their unique way was able to “light up my life,” as a popular song put it a few years ago. Their light gave a burst of new insight at just the right moment. They were and they are my Bethlehem Stars.

The Christmas season has a way of “lighting up” the darkness for us. Each year when Christmas comes we have another opportunity to ponder its mystery. Last night, those 34 candles in the Yokefellow Center windows (each just a tiny little light) lit up the whole building and surrounding area proclaiming the abiding promise of Christmas: “The light continues to shine in the darkness and the darkness has never extinguished it” (John 1:15). These tiny little lights also describe Star Persons and how their little light makes a tremendous difference in a dark and broken world.

The “little light” Star Persons give to your life and mine comes from another realm—a Light from beyond. The Light that lights up the Yokefellow Center also comes, not from 34 candles, but a Light from beyond. These small “pieces of light” are a reflection of the Bethlehem Star, inviting everyone to revisit Bethlehem and to reconsider its miracle. This Bethlehem to which the light beckons is not far away in some Holy Land. It is rather the Bethlehem within our own human hearts (also holy ground). Here, in the Bethlehem of the heart, we will find the Child into whom God poured out His very being; all of His love—to demonstrate in human flesh his passionate care for each of us and the world in which we live. Here, in this Bethlehem of the heart, we will find the Light from beyond, the Child, who became the Son of Man—being and doing what man and woman is called to do—letting God’s passionate love shine though His life. It is here, in the Bethlehem of the heart, that Star Persons are born. It is here that we too can be re-born in some new way this Christmas. The words of Angelus Silesius of the 17th century still describe this possibility—the continuing miracle of Christmas: “If Christ were born a thousand times in Galilee it was all in vain until He is born in m
e, in thee.”

The Yokefellow Center is called to let God’s passionate love shine through its ministries and presence.

We wish you a Merry Christmas filled with love, hope, joy, and peace, but most of all, we pray for you a wondrous revisit to the Bethlehem within your heart and all that such an experience may mean for you and the world.
With gratitude and love,

Hal E. Owens

“Fling wide the portals of your heart; make it a temple set apart from earthly use for heaven’s employ, adorned with prayer and love and joy.

Redeemer, come, with us abide; our hearts to thee are open wide; let us thy inner presence feel; thy grace and love in us reveal.” (Georg Weissel, 1642)

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