For many of us, the Star of Bethlehem is a symbol of not only Christmas, but of our faith. Even though the star is mentioned in only two verses in the Bible, the light of heaven that guided the Wise Men to Jesus becomes the “star of the show” in the telling of the Christmas story. From long ago to present day, the Star of Bethlehem has remained a central part of our celebration of the season, given a place of honor in our decorations. In our own community, the Christmas star shines brightly night after night from atop Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, adding to Winston-Salem’s celebrations of the season.
Not Just another Christmas Decoration
Every year since 1992, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has displayed a Moravian star atop the North Tower of the facility. The star stands 31 feet tall, with 26 rays, weighing 3,400 pounds, illuminated by a 150-watt floodlight at each point and, to those who know the story behind the star, it’s not just another Christmas decoration. “The idea for the star was initiated in 1990 by Shirley Hasty, a secretary in chaplaincy and pastoral education at Wake Forest Baptist, who has since passed, but she left a lasting legacy at the Medical Center and the overall community,” said Gary R. Gunderson, D. Div., D. Min., Vice President of Faith & Health at Wake Forest Baptist Medical. Ms. Hasty worked for two years with Jack Boles, who was in charge of the carpentry and decoration at the hospital, and Chris Hargett of Cosco Sign Company in Lexington, NC before the star was placed atop the hospital.
The star has become a symbol and staple within the community and, for many, symbolizes the light of God’s love and presence in our lives. “A few years ago, the star unexpectedly went out and we received many phone calls wondering why the star was not lit up; that’s when we really knew how valued and meaningful the star was to those in the community and [that it was] being cared for at our facility,” Mr. Gunderson commented. If you think about it, the medical center is a place where the personnel try to embody the love of God in caring for their patients and their families, giving them hope during perhaps trying times.
The Lighting of the Star
Each year the Medical Center holds a star lighting that is open to the public and includes a worship service and music provided by a Moravian band and the Medical Center chorale. “This year’s lighting event is scheduled for Tuesday, December 5th at 5:45 pm, with a rain date of Wednesday, December 6th at 5:45 pm. We will serve complimentary apple cider, hot chocolate and Moravian cookies will also be available for our guests,” stated Mr. Gunderson. On average, more than 200 people attend the star lighting and it sets the tone of the season, reminding us of the compassion and hope in God’s love. The star is disassembled every year on the first weather-friendly day after the Epiphany on January 6th.
The Moravian star is something many look forward to every holiday season. The start represents Christ, himself, whom the Scriptures call the “bright morning star” and “the light of the world.” “I think when patients or their family members look at the star, it can offer a little hope and peace,” Mr. Gunderson said.
Wake Forest Baptist’s annual public Moravian star lighting and worship service is on December 5th at 5:45 pm. For more information about the service, call 336-716-3027.