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This Christmas season, ending a year like no other, the world will experience a celestial event not seen for nearly 800 years, and first seen during the first coming of Jesus Christ more than two millennia ago.
That event is the Christmas Star, an unusual cross-shaped “star,” which is actually the conjunction of two planets, Jupiter and Saturn. As they move closer to one another and appear to cross each other’s path (while still more than a billion miles apart), our human eyes may interpret the image as a single bright orb at the intersection of two perpendicular beams, the longer of which is aligned vertically and the shorter aligned horizontally, forming a cross.
Scripture tells us that wise men seeking the prophesied King and Messiah followed this “star,” which guided their path (Matthew 2:1-2) until it came to rest over the house in Egypt where the young child Jesus lived with His parents (Matthew 2:9-11). They had fled from Israel where the jealous, cruel and insecure King Herod had ordered the death of all male infants, as he believed that one of them would grow up to steal his throne ((Matthew 2:13-16)..
How amazing that this guiding light took the form of a cross, signifying that Lord Jesus Christ came to die. The perfect, sinless Son of God (Hebrews 4:15) took on human flesh (John 1:14) and entered our world as a frail newborn, to grow to manhood not only to be a great Teacher, Prophet (Matthew 16:14) and Healer (John 3:2), but to die an agonizing death on the cross (Matthew 26:2). Other symbols foreshadowing His death were the swaddling clothes (Luke 2:7), similar to strips of gauze used to wrap a corpse for burial, and the gift of myrrh brought by one of the wise men (Matthew 2:11), also used for anointing the dead (John 19:39).
Only through this extreme punishment of crucifixion, entailing not only physical but emotional suffering from rejection by His chosen people (Mark 15:13), betrayal by His closest followers (Luke 22:33-34), and separation from His Heavenly Father (Matthew 27:46), could the Lamb of God pay our sin debt in full (John 1:29). Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 10:10), all who trust in that sacrifice as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) are guaranteed eternal life with Him there, and with all our loved ones in Him.
So why is the Christmas Star appearing now? Only God knows the answer, but it clearly seems to be a reminder of Christ’s first advent as Savior, when God showed His infinite love by sending His only begotten Son to die and rise again from the dead, so that all who trust Him would have eternal life (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
In today’s world of pandemic, chaos and division, such a reminder is so sorely needed as a shining glimmer of hope, of assurance that God loves us (1 John 4:8) and has a plan, even though we often fail to understand it. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and He works all things together for good for those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Even those who are unsaved are seeking understanding and peace in these troubled times. Might the Christmas Star remind us to be a light in the lost, dark world (Matthew 5:14), and to use this heavenly phenomenon to draw others closer to Jesus Christ through our witness?
How interesting that the 2020 Christmas Star will shine most brightly on December 21, which marks the winter solstice, or shortest day of the year. In the church calendar, this date traditionally honors John the Baptist, who realized that he must decrease in importance and leadership as Jesus Christ increased (John 3:30). We would do well to follow his perspective in our own lives, seeking not our own self-glorification, but Christ’s preeminence (Colossians 1:18).
The Christmas Star will be most visible shortly after sunset, perhaps as a sign that the light of Christ, the Morning Star (Revelation 22:16), shines most brightly in the darkness, when the new light of dawn still seems so far away.
Yet the signs of the times (Matthew 24) clearly herald the Lord’s soon return, His second advent not as the suffering Savior, but as the righteous Judge (Revelation 19:11) and triumphant King of Kings (Revelation 17:14) and Lord of Lords! The first Christmas Star announced the first advent of Jesus Christ as a babe in the manger – might its return herald Christ’s second advent?
Jesus Christ indicated that among other signs of His soon return, there would be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, as well as great dismay among the nations (Luke 21:25). Only the Father knows the day and the hour of the first phase of the second advent (Mark 13:30-33), namely Christ’s return for His children, calling them up in the Rapture, to meet with Him in the air and to live with Him forever (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).
Might this Christmas Star also be a reminder to look up (Luke 21:28), as the final stage of our redemption draws near?
© 2020 Laurie Collett