The Christmas Star 2020

Did you see it?

I don’t understand astronomy but I do like looking up into the sky, especially a clear African one.

Monday 21st 2020 was the night when the planets Jupiter and Saturn came together to form what we have called the Christmas Star of 2020. It’s the closest that these 2 planets have got together for 800 years and if you missed it then just hang around as they will do it again around the year 2080!

Social media was alive with opinions about this being the same conjunction of planets the Magi saw, the star of Bethlehem. In the 17th century a German astronomer, Johannes Kepler recorded that this same conjunction appeared in June, August and December in 7BC. Was it the same one the Magi saw?

Matthew chose in his gospel to include the story of the Arabian astronomers. That story included this Star of Bethlehem.

 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him…Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. (Matthew 2: 1-3, 7-10)

To Matthew’s readers they would be fully aware of the commonly held views that the skies heralded the birth of a hero. A quick search in the history books reveal how certain stars and comets announced the death and the birth of new emperors and kings. This is probably one of the reasons why Herod was so afraid.

The prophecy of Balaam was definitely known to Matthew. “‘I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.” (Numbers 24:17)

Interestingly, the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy which was partly based on the gospel of Thomas and not included in the Biblical canon has this in verse 7: “And in the same hour there appeared to them an angel in the form of that star which had before guided them on their journey; and they went away, following the guidance of its light, until they arrived in their own country.”

This passage is not in the Bible, but the thought is.

Throughout the Old Testament there are references to angels being stars. Even Jesus refers to himself as the Morning Star in Revelation.

Matthew says this is a moving star that the Magi saw. That’s what made it different to what we saw on Monday 21st.

Could it have been an angel?

One day we will know.

But Matthew records how God broke into His own order and the Magi saw it and this heavenly brilliance spoke to them of the entry of a king into the world. The King of the Jews at that time was afraid when he heard the gossip on the streets of Jerusalem. He was afraid of being usurped from anything from the east. He knows he is not the true King of the Jews, Rome had placed him there. His safety is in the west, his paranoia is in the east. Secretly he deceives the Magi. He pretends to be a worshipper.

The Magi was seeking the King. Herod was opposing the King and the Jewish priests which we will read, were ignoring the King.

As they started toward Bethlehem, they saw the miraculous star again and it led them to the place where Jesus was. Bethlehem a quiet little town, 6 miles south of Jerusalem, not a place for a King to be born and yet that is where God was.

Let us today make sure we are open to God’s interventions in our lives and that we follow His lead even if others rubbish or want to kill off our dreams.

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