Star Gazing (January 2019)

This year the Church of England campaign to advertise the Christmas services held in churches around the country, used the slogan ‘Follow the Star’ #FollowtheStar .  And to connect with this, the Monday craft group helped create a beautiful star which has appeared above the main door to the church (see photos). 

Of course, the main characters in the accounts of the birth of Jesus who followed a star were the Magi, otherwise known as the Wise Men or the Kings (we traditionally say there were three of them, because of the number of gifts they brought, but we do not actually know how many of them there were).  In Matthew’s gospel it is described how they said ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ (Matthew 2.2) And then, in verse 9 it says how they saw the star ahead of them, and it stopped over the place in Bethlehem where the child was.

What was going on?  Was there a real astronomical event in the sky then?  First of all, we need to realise that the Magi were experienced star gazers of their day.  They were from Persia and were called ‘Magupati’, and were priests of their day in a Persian religious sect.  They would have studied the stars religiously.   We know that they interpreted what they saw as meaning a special king would be born.  That means they saw something quite special and unusual to come to this conclusion.  So there have been a number of theories about what they actually saw.  Theories include a comet, or a supernova, or a conjunction of planets (and various versions of that theory abound).  Or potentially, there was a supernatural ‘different’ event which cannot be understood by astronomy today.

Whichever theory proves to be correct (and we actually will never be able to fully know) – the fact remains that a star in the sky led the Magi to Jesus.  A star – which is several light years away from us – has a spiritual significance for the Magi, and by extension for us who celebrate their visit to the infant Jesus at the Feast of Epiphany.  We may speak about God placing the stars into space, we may talk in theoretical terms of God creating the universe.  But here we have evidence of the influence God has on the universe focussing in on an event on planet earth, in a small town called Bethlehem, on a particular date over 2,000 years ago.  That was all in God’s plan. 

God has the whole of the universe in his hands.  He has our planet, and all of creation in his hands too.  It is remarkable to think of all that.  And yet still, God is interested in you and in me.  He may be the creator of the entire universe, but He is also concerned about the small moments in our lives.  This is why the Christ-child was born.  He knows all about our lives, and everything we go through.  So when we see the star above the church door, or we see any of the stars in space, let us look with wonder and remember God who created all the universe, and us too.  Let us learn to see God in all aspects of His creation we see day to day, whether in flora or fauna, or even people we meet.  Let us learn to follow wherever He is leading us.

Tina Upton


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