“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2 ESV).
Christmas has its share of lights—just ask the Griswolds! Counting the Advent Wreath, by Christmas morning St. Michael, Portage’s sanctuary will have nine candles burning. What’s more, there will also be garlands, wreaths, and Christmas trees all sparkling with lights. Tradition tells us that Martin Luther was the first to put candles in a Christmas tree because it reminded him of the light of the stars glinting off the evergreens’ boughs he saw while walking home through the woods.
And speaking of stars, one of the very prominent lights at Christmas time is that Star of Bethlehem. Now I know that technically that’s an Epiphany thing more than Christmas, but I dare you to find a Christmas card with a picture of the holy family around the manger that does not have a bright star shining overhead. We don’t know if this was a unique heavenly body that the Lord just put there for the moment, or if there is some more natural astrological explanation for it. Theories abound, and a good summary of them can be found in Rev. Dr. Paul L. Maier’s book In the Fullness of Time, which devotes a whole chapter to “An Extraordinary Star.”
One theory put forth by none less than Johannes Kepler is that there was an overlapping, or at least very close proximity, of planets that occurred around 7-6 BC. This is not too early for the Star of Bethlehem because Herod the Great died in 4 BC and so the birth of Jesus would have had to have been prior to that (explained by an unfortunate miscalculation in ancient calendars). You might be aware that there is going to be a similar overlapping of planetary light this year on December 21 as Saturn and Jupiter align. They haven’t come this close together and formed a kind of double planet since the year 1226, and won’t again until March of 2080.
But, of course, the real Star of Bethlehem is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is truly the star of the show and should not be upstaged by Santa Claus, the Grinch, or any other fun holiday fantasy. He is the real deal, and as we’re keeping it real this Christmas, let us focus our lenses on Him, remembering who He is as the God/man, and worshiping Him with faith. He is the “True Light” (John 1:9) that gives light to everyone and has come into the world and into our hearts to light up our life for all eternity. So with Johann Herrmann (LSB #839), we pray. . .
O Christ, our true and only light, enlighten those who sit in night;
Let those afar now hear Your voice and in Your fold with us rejoice.
Fill with the radiance of Your grace the souls now lost in error’s maze;
Enlighten those whose inmost minds some dark delusion haunts and blinds.
Shine on the darkened and the cold; recall the wanderers to Your fold.
Unite all those who walk apart; confirm the weak and doubting heart,
That they with us may evermore such grace with wondering thanks adore
And endless praise to You be given by all Your Church in earth and heaven.
Photo (c) Kevin Carden/Lightstock