Since the dawn of time, people have looked to the skies, tracking movements of heavenly bodies to glean information from them.
We still do the same. One hundred years ago, we first glimpsed galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Today’s newest giant telescopes promise to shatter the limits of our sight and imagination. Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has spawned unprecedented sales of telescopes.
Three weeks ago (Nov. 9–13), you could see seven planets in one day. Venus and Mercury were bright spots in the predawn sky. Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and Saturn were readily visible at night. It was an unusual phenomenon, but it barely registered a blip in the news.
Most people missed it.
They either weren’t looking for it, or they were caught up in the turmoil of current events.
The same thing happened in the first century. Virtually everyone missed seeing the star that heralded Christ’s birth. People either weren’t looking for it or were caught up in the crush of Roman rule.
Only two isolated groups of people saw the star: societal outcasts (shepherds) and foreigners (the Wise Men).
Eyes to see
In the first century, only five planets, all visible to the naked eye, were known and studied. In most cultures, priests were the most learned astronomers or astrologers.
What would you do if you suddenly saw something infinitely brighter and closer to earth than anything you’d ever seen? The main character in my book New Star scrambles to learn everything he can about it. No other culture notes such a phenomenon. But a few Jewish holy texts predict something that seems to match it.
Much ado still surrounds what the Wise Men saw. One enduring theory is that it was a conjunction—planets or planets and stars aligned so they look like one entity. An early conflict in my book occurs when my main character refutes others’ challenges to what he saw, including the conjunction theory. That pits the Wise Man against his Council, religious and governmental powers.
Another problem the Wise Men faced was how elusive the star was. Read Matthew 2:9-11 closely and you’ll see the star didn’t guide them throughout their journey. It appeared to them once—while they were in their homeland at the time of Christ’s birth. It didn’t appear again until almost two years later when they were within a few miles of Bethlehem. How did the Wise Men justify the time and cost to pursue something they weren’t sure they’d see again?
How should we respond?
It took faith for the Wise Men to embrace something radically counterintuitive and countercultural. Not just the sight of an unpredictable star but also what it represented.
Put yourself in their shoes. Would you be willing to part with your longstanding beliefs, even if it meant breaking laws concerning your country’s official religion? Could you live with practicing one thing while secretly believing another?
We all must come to terms with similar questions when we consider Christ’s birth.
It fulfilled three hundred Old Testament prophecies, all written hundreds of years before His birth. Additionally, the star wasn’t a star at all but something far more wondrous.
Both events defy human logic and demand we take a step of faith in acknowledging there is a God and He’s more … everything than we can fathom.
Training our eyes to see
Today we can easily locate the planets in our solar system because technology tells us where to focus our untrained eyes. Yet we still must look for the planets to enjoy them. The same with Christ. His Word can focus our untrained thoughts. But we must look into His Word to enjoy Christ on a personal level.
Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” Those prophetic words, so perfect literally and metaphorically, were penned seven hundred years before Christ’s birth. And the star of Bethlehem wasn’t a star at all. It was God’s Shekinah Glory—a visible manifestation of God pointing mankind to Christ.
The first half of Isaiah 9 contains numerous prophecies about Christ, starting with His birth: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Have you ever heard more wondrous words?
I pray you recapture that awe this Christmas season. Bask in the radiance of His truth. Let His love blanket you. May your heart leap with joy at the hope that came in the form of a baby. And respond with humble adoration. Hallelujah!
Never miss a post!
Why am I taking about Christmas before Thanksgiving? Because this year we need it. Here are a few songs/videos I’m enjoying already. I’ll post more with each December blog. Maybe some of these will become your new favorites. Enjoy!
A gift to you: uplifting music videos
Peter Hollens, The Piano Guys, and a huge choir performing something so breathtaking they didn’t list a name for it. Musically and visually beathtaking, especially the end.
Peter Hollens singing all six harmonies in his version of “Mary Did You Know”
Michael W. Smith performing “Gloria” live (with outstanding choral backup)
And this stunning reminder that hope is never chained:
Hugh Bonneville narrating the story behind “It Is Well With My Soul”—the Spafford family’s incredible faith journey, triumphs over tragedies, their humanitarian work, their legacy, and how Bethlehem figures into every part of it (includes reenactment and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing backgrounds—so powerful!)