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Star of Bethlehem, what was it?
By Larry Dye the Creation Guy
Who were the Magi (wise men)? Where did they come from? How did the star become so significant in their lives? Why did they travel so far to see the Christ child?
It's been said that these men came from Persia, Arabia or Babylonia. We do know one thing, they came from the east. The Magi were not crude pagans, but religious scholars who, as part of their pursuit, studied the stars in the heavens.
Even though astrology is forbidden in scripture, we need to remember that in the past for some astrology was connected with man's search for God, and astrologers simply tried to define in the heavens the answer to their moral longings.
The Magi of the Biblical story were part of a priesthood of Medes and Persians scattered over the east, who were influenced by expatriate Jews sharing their sacred writings, thus instilling in them the expectation of a coming kingly Jewish figure.
What galvanized these Magi into action was the appearance of what the text calls a "star in the east". Over the years, there has been much speculation as to what the Magi actually saw. Nevertheless, it does reveal that God uses His creation to speak to mankind.
Theories on the star are as follows:
1. Super Nova or New Star: An explosion giving off an extra ordinary amount of light. This is only a theory as there is no ancient record of such an occurrence near Christ's birth.
2. Comet: We know that comets move in elliptical paths around the sun, and we know of a few bright ones that have appeared over the centuries. For example, Halley's comet appeared around 11 or 12 B.C., which is almost the time of Jesus birth.
3. Conjunction of planets: The atmosphere of oriental astrology would lend itself to the support of this interpretation. Certain facts of astronomical history would also tend to confirm this opinion. The astronomer Kepler, in 1603 A.D., observed an unusual alignment of planets (similar to what we observed last spring) and found by diligent searching that in 7 B.C. there was a similar conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. One year later Mars joined the conjunction in 6 B.C. Some have said this would agree with the approximate date of the birth of Jesus Christ around 4 B.C. They suggest that a mistake on the part of the Roman Church was made in the calculations of Christ's birth on the Christian calendar by about 4 years.
4. Miracle Star: This is the argument of the miraculous. Remember, the Magi asked "where is he who has been born King of the Jews, for we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Their question seems to indicate the star came about by supernatural phenomenon. John Stott wrote, "If the Magi were astronomers [studying the stars], they would have been familiar with such a phenomenon and would have explained it naturally. It would have required more than a natural phenomenon to send them on such a journey. The star is better explained as a manifestation of the shining glory of God that he reveals to those who are recipients of his revelation." We need to keep in mind that the star went before the Magi until it came and stood over where the child lived. From Jerusalem it moved south and resided over the house of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem.
The arrival of the Magi in search of the Jewish King once again confirms the fact that in biblical history Christ was for the gentiles too. They had come thousands of miles to this poor peasants house. "And they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they presented to him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."
The Magi gave the best they had. True worship involves giving what we have, the very best of ourselves and possessions to Christ, the true King.
The story of the Magi reminds us that God can speak to us through the heavens. As you gaze up into the starry night this Christmas, may you worship the awesome Creator who came as our Saviour.
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