“For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:2b (ESV)
I just finished reading an article titled “Rare ‘Christmas Star’ will light up the sky on winter solstice.” The article explained that on December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will form what’s known in astronomy as a conjunction. A conjunction occurs when two objects align in the sky. According to NASA, “the planets will appear just a tenth of a degree apart, which is equivalent to the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length.” What this means for stargazers is that Jupiter and Saturn will look like a double-planet, which hasn’t happened since the Middle Ages…the year 1226 to be exact.
The article went on to explain that “astronomers believe that the ‘star of Bethlehem’ was a conjunction between Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.”
I think you’ll agree with me when I say that this year’s appearance of the “Christmas Star” isn’t a coincidence. Considering that 2020 has been one of the most bizarre and sobering years of our collective life experience, I have to believe that God orchestrated this celestial “conjunction” as a message for our time…a message about what to do when life throws us curveballs.
The key to this message is found in Matthew 2:1-12. These verses unpack the account of the three wise men who came to worship the Christ child. Scholars believe the Magi were astronomers possibly from Persia or Arabia. They were educated, respected, and affluent.
But let’s be clear. The Magi didn’t share in the Old Testament covenant relationship between God and the Jews. The Magi were pagans. Yet God chose them to live out His good news: “My Son, the Savior of the world, is available to anyone who will receive Him.”
God, in His infinite mercy, initiated contact with the Magi by speaking their language. He beckoned these celestial experts to pursue His Star, His one and only Son, Jesus. Like each of us, they were invited to participate in God’s family.
The Magi responded immediately. But things didn’t go as planned. Despite their obedience to God’s call, the Magi encountered legitimate reasons to abandon their quest. First, when they arrived in Jerusalem, the Christ child wasn’t there. Unbeknownst to the Magi, Jesus was in Bethlehem. Yet that didn’t stop them. Even after King Herod summoned them to the palace for questioning, the Magi continued to follow the Christmas Star. What’s more astonishing, is that when the Magi finally found Jesus and discovered He was just an average boy, they didn’t grumble and complain that their journey was a waste of time. Instead, “they fell down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:11).
These wise men understood that Jesus is worthy of pursuit. Their example reminds us that when life doesn’t go as planned, God is faithful to provide the guidance we so desperately need. Like the wise men, our role is to follow His Star, to press in and move toward Jesus, wherever He leads. As we head into a new year, I pray that we will have the same “tunnel vision” as the Magi did. That we will refuse to be derailed from an unabashed pursuit of Jesus.
And I hope you’ll be encouraged by the rare celestial phenomenon that God has so graciously orchestrated on the last month of this most unprecedented year. May the “Christmas Star” remind us that when we’re thrown off-course, God is faithful to illuminate our way.