Saturday, November 23, 2013
UNCREATED ENERGY & THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
The Christmas story as told in the gospels has the birth of the Son of God and humanity’s savior as the focal point. Scholars have long disputed the exact time of this birth as they attempt to piece together clues of the year of Herod’s death after a lunar eclipse and the execution of all boys two years of age and younger. So the birth date of Jesus has been estimated to be between 6 and 4 BC. The Star of Bethlehem is only found in the gospel of Matthew and scientists have also strived for centuries to retrace the paths of the stars back to this period to attempt an understanding of this phenomenon which led the wise men from the east to Christ’s birthplace. The book of Numbers contains the Star Prophecy which the Magi may have studied that foretells of a star that shall arise out of Jacob and a man shall rise up out of Israel.
Astronomers have speculated that a nova, a comet or possible planetary conjunctions might explain the star that arose in the east which captured their interest. One of the primary scientific theories concerns the planet Jupiter. In 7 BC, Jupiter and Saturn moved past each other three times in the constellation Pisces. This only happens every 900 years. Jupiter symbolized royalty and Saturn represented a deity who protected Israel. Ancient astrologers also associated Pisces with the Jewish people. In 5 BC. Jupiter was traveling eastward that year when it appeared to reverse course and then move westward in what is defined as a retrograde motion. This phenomenon was due to the fact that our Earth has a faster orbital period than Jupiter. Somewhat like observing a faster car overtake another, Jupiter appeared to be standing still for about a week and then receding. The astrologers may have considered this to be a momentous sign. The ancients believed that astronomical phenomena were connected to worldly events concerning important people. Perhaps that is part of a divine plan of the Creator who has set the universe in motion.
The Magi quite probably interpreted the starry heavens to be revealing some very significant imminent birth. It’s interesting to note, however, that when the Magi found their way to Jerusalem they had to stop and ask for directions to worship the King of the Jews. The priests quoted Micah 5:2 that prophesied seven centuries earlier that he would be born in Bethlehem. But what of the account in Matthew that they were then led by a star in the east directly to the house where the child and his mother Mary resided? There are numerous accounts in the Bible of what appears to be “uncreated energy” that emanates from the divine presence and is manifested in supernatural acts. This divine brightness was in the non-consuming burning bush that appeared to Moses, the bright pillar of fire that led the freed Israelites through the desert at night, the uncreated energy that later appeared to be a consuming fire on top of Mount Sinai, the tongues of fire that hovered over the apostles’ heads at Pentecost, the blinding light that struck the apostle Paul as he was converted and the radiant transformation of Christ on a high mountain.
It’s interesting to consider that the astrological events involving Jupiter did indeed alert the Magi that a momentous event was at hand. But perhaps it may well have been supernatural “uncreated light” emanating from God in the flesh that precisely guided those first worshipers to acknowledge His coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As a child and even today, I’ve always considered the Star of Bethlehem to be a miracle of God without a scientific explanation. The appearance of the star was like a heavenly laser beam of pure Light announcing the long awaited arrival of a savior whose mission was the redemption of all mankind! John later quotes Jesus in 12:46; “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”