“Meet Me at the Star” tells of a meeting place where family and friends, old and new, living and departed, come together unencumbered by time and space.

The Education of Little Tree

“Meet Me at the Star” derives from the Forrest Carter book, “The Education of Little Tree” about an orphaned child adopted by his Cherokee grandmother and half-Cherokee grandfather in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee during the Great Depression. Little Tree, as his Grandparents call him, learns how to hunt and survive in the mountains, to respect nature in the Cherokee Way, taking only what they need and leaving the rest for nature to run its course.

Little Tree also learns of the often cruel ways of white businesspeople and tax collectors. He humorously learns how ‘Granpa’ scares them away from the still where he turned a profit by making quality whiskey. ‘Granma’ teaches Little Tree the joys of reading and, with Granpa, schools Little Tree in the ways and history of the Cherokee.

But at about age ten the authorities decide they must take Little Tree from his Grandparents and send him to a boarding school orphanage to be taught the way of white culture. A sorrowful pall settles over the humble cabin where the three live. On an evening before Little Tree must go, they sit in the cabin silently. “We didn’t talk anymore. I didn’t know what to say. We all three rocked, our chairs creaking slow, far into the night and we didn’t talk.”

On the day Granpa must take Little Tree to the settlement, Granma, who couldn’t bear to go with them, calls the young boy aside and tells him about the Dog Star.

The Dog Star

“Do ye recollect the Dog Star, Little Tree? The one we look at in the dusk of evening?” Little Tree says he does. Granma then tells Little Tree to look at the Dog Star in the dusk of the evening no matter where he might be. Granma promises that she and Granpa would look too, and “We will remember.” Little Tree also vows to remember.

The boarding school proves to be a horrific place. When Little Tree arrives, they send him to see the “Reverend.” There, the Reverend sets the tone for Little Tree’s experience at the school. “We have no Indians here, half-breed or otherwise. Also, your mother and father were not married. You are the first, the only bastard we have ever accepted.”

Little Tree remembers his Granma’s words and skips supper to watch the Dog Star. The large room where he and twenty or thirty boys sleep has a window near his cot, and from there he plainly sees the Dog Star. He knows Granpa and Granma are watching it, too. Every evening as dusk brings the Dog Star up, Little Tree tells Granma and Granpa he wants to come home, especially after receiving a brutal beating at the hands of the Reverend. One evening heavy clouds move in and cover the star. Then a fierce wind tears down a light pole placing the orphanage in the dark. “I knew they had heard,” recalls Little Tree.

Going Home

Christmas Day Little Tree sits alone under a big oak tree until dusk. The time approaches to go up to his room and watch the star and talk to Granpa and Granma. He turns toward the building and sees a figure coming out of the office whom he immediately recognizes. He runs as hard as he can to the man. “Granpa knelt and we held each other and did not speak.” 

Little Tree doesn’t tell Granpa how he ached to go home, fearing he’d get him in trouble with the Reverend. But on an impulse, he follows at a distance as Granpa makes his way to the bus station. There he calls out and runs to Granpa. He pulls on Granpa’s pants leg to get his attention. Little Tree said, “Granpa. I want to go home.” 

Little Tree later recollects the bus ride home. “I laid my head on his chest, but I didn’t sleep. I watched the winder. It was frosted with ice. There wasn’t any heat there in the back of the bus, but we didn’t care. Me and Granpa was going home.”

The Dog Star provided Little Tree and his beloved family a point of contact that cut across the distance that separated them. The next evening after returning home, sitting by the fireplace Granpa recounts that “they commenced to have bad feelings, watching the Dog Star.” Our “more enlightened” culture might call it a silly superstition, but for the Cherokee, the Dog Star, without a doubt, reached across the miles and brought them together.

Christians also have such a star that transcends all the boundaries of time and space. A star where our eyes meet and our hearts melt together.

The Bright Morning Star

Jesus said, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16). He is the Morning Star because he came into the world and dispelled the long, dark night. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

An ancient oracle spoken by Balaam, the son of Beor, foresaw the coming Messiah and prophesied, “A star shall come out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). As a sign that the Star had risen, a miraculous star stood over Bethlehem where Christ was born.

The primary pursuit and privilege of Christians since Christ walked on our planet consists of looking to Jesus, the bright Morning Star. “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

We look to Jesus when we read the Scriptures: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). 

We look to Jesus when we pray: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

We look to Jesus when we minister to others: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

But principally we look to Jesus when we worship: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Although this text applies to the restoration of an erring believer, it generalizes to all Christian gatherings, including worship. If Jesus is not at the center of our worship, if we do not fix our eyes on Him, then our coming together becomes little more than a social event or a club meeting.

Meet Me at the Star

Concurrently with our focus on Christ here on Earth, the saints in Heaven engage in the same pursuit. The Apostle John saw them. “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

If worship here on Earth revolves around Jesus and the saints in glory focus on that same Jesus, then worship draws Heaven and Earth together! I’ve said many times we are never closer to our departed loved ones than when we engage in worship. We might visit the grave, but they are not there. We may try to relive moments once shared, but they are not there. But when we worship with Jesus in our midst, Heaven comes down, and God lifts us up and seats us with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).

Hebrews 12:22-24 best describes the spiritual merging of the family of God in Heaven and on Earth when all eyes turn to Jesus, the bright Morning Star.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in Heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.

“Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul.” wrote John Peterson in his stirring hymn. 

Come, let us worship together. Meet me at the Star where we transcendently connect to our brothers and sisters all over the world, and the departed ones in Heaven. Meet me at the Star until that day dawns when we, like Little Tree, find ourselves gathered home. There we shall see the whole family of God face to face, and the Star of Jacob in the midst shining more brilliantly than we can imagine. 

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace
“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961)

Enjoy “Little Tree” from “The Education of Little Tree” movie soundtrack.