“Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?” The nursery rhyme and English lullaby raises the interesting question about what a star really is.
Matthew records that the wise men saw a star and started to follow it. The star is a very integral part of the Christmas story. The star has always intrigued me.
Gordon Govier points out that for 400 years astronomers have tried to explain the phenomenon of the star that led the wise men to the birth of Jesus. In 1614 the pioneer of modern astronomy, Johannes Kepler, was the first to analyze it. In recent days a Rutgers University astronomer, Michael Molnar, has come up with a widely accepted explanation.
Molnar has a coin collecting hobby. Recently he purchased an ancient coin minted in Antioch in the early 1st century that gave him a new clue. I can’t explain his findings except to say that many scholars today give plausibility to Molnar’s theory that it was not an extremely bright shooting comet, but a more subdued light from a ancient configuration of the planets. It was not a supernova, but something that appeared to which one had to be looking in order to see it.
I am not advocating any particular perspective, except I’m intrigued by the idea that it might have been obvious, but subtle, and it was something that the wise men saw that thousands of other people did not see. Even King Herod didn’t see it and was taken by surprise when he heard about it.
Wise men look for and see the Star of Bethlehem. Do you see it today? It is there, though most people don’t see it. It’s not flashing like a commercial sign, but it is in sight for people who are looking for it. It is the star that leads to the real meaning of Christmas.
The wise men followed the star. I am sure other people saw it, but were not willing to follow it. The Christmas star is something that gets us out of our comfort zone and causes us to go experience the reality of the birth of Christ.
At one point Matthew says that the wise men came to Jerusalem and did not see the star. They did not pack up and go home, but Matthew says that they kept going forward. In life when God’s plan is not so extremely evident to us, it is not time to quit and pack up, but to keep going forward. We can have the experience of the wise men who “rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:10) when they saw the star again.
I am not sure about the original Star of Bethlehem and what it might have been. More importantly I am concerned that each of us sees the star today that leads to the birth of Christ. That is what the meaning of Christmas is. We have to be willing to see it, then follow it, then keep going forward even when the star is not evident.
The star might not be extremely bright like a shooting comet, but it is there. Molnar says, “From our modern point of view, it was not very impressive, but it must have been spectacular from their point of view.”
The star was the key for wise men to witness the presence of God in the form of a Baby. It’s twinkling. The star leads to the manger. The manger leads to life! Do you see it? Are you following it?