A Star in the night sky; visible in the east to a group of learned men; men who studied the sky looking for the sign.
Stars have been long associated with the Christmas. The story of the Star followed by the Magi as told in Matthew has been studied, debated, questioned and theorized on for centuries. Was there really a star? Could it have really lead wise men from Persia to a tiny town in Judea; to a specific house with a toddler?
The Star, as referred to in Matthew’s gospel comes from the Greek word “aster”. Its meaning refers to any of a myriad of heavenly objects: stars, planets, comets to name a few. There are many theories surrounding the Star. Some say it was comet that appeared to the Magi and was visible for a number of weeks then disappeared and then another comet appeared once they left Jerusalem for Bethlehem. Another of the theories point to a supernova which suddenly appeared and then, as is common for supernovas, disappeared, reappearing again in the same spot later. Both of these theories line up with the story as set out in Matthew.
Many believe that the star did not literately geographically lead the Magi to Jerusalem nor to the exact house in Bethlehem, but rather was a recognizable “star” that appeared around the time the Messiah, as referred to by Daniel, (Dn 9.25-26) was prophesied to appear. The Magi were very likely highly educated leaders in Persia. They may not have been astrologers but rather national leaders or politicians who were highly respected. They would have had a vast knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and would have been well versed in the prophesies of Daniel, a wise man in the Courts of that land. The magi would have known about the Anointed One foretold by Daniel and the approximate time when he was to come; they would not have known, however, where to find him. When the unusual star appeared, they would have immediately connected the event with the arrival of a new King (apparently it was a common to have a star appear at the time of the birth of a new king). Based on the prophesies they would have gone directly to Jerusalem, the capital city of Daniel’s homeland, fully assuming the leaders in Israel to also be watching expectantly for the Messiah. Clearly they had not.
When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem they found no one talking about the Star nor the new Messiah. When the priests and learned men in Jerusalem read back through the Scriptures they advise that the Messiah was said to be born in Bethlehem of Judea and the Magi head off in that direction. At this time, the star reappears to them and they find the babe, who is now said to be around 15 to 18 months old. Whether this second appearing of the star was the same comet, an aligning of planets, a supernova, or a miraculous revelation of shekinah – the physical manifestation of the glory of God, the wise men see it and follow it to the home where the Christ-child resides.
We will likely never know exactly what happened over the course of their travel and what they actually did see in sky, however, we do know that these Magi – learned men, were expectantly waiting and watching. They were anticipating the arrival of the Messiah and when they saw the Star they immediately sought to find the new King and pay him reverence and worship Him.
We have seen His Star in the east
and have come to Worship
Petro, Bill. History of The Christmas Star. http://billpetro.com/history-of-christmas-star 2015-12-08 (Web)Ross, Dr. Hugh. The Christmas Star. Reasons to Believe. http://www.reasons.org/articles/the-christmas-star 2002-12-01 (Web)
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