The snow that fell a few days ago is a reminder that Christmas is approaching. Along the halls in our building, decorations are appearing on apartment doors. I am determined to do a thorough cleaning of our apartment before I unpack Christmas decorations. Besides, many ideas for articles are dancing around in my head, crying to get onto paper. Upmost in my thoughts right now are the events connected with the Nativity.
To think that back in the beginning of Time when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He already had laid His plan for redemption. He promised a Redeemer would come through the Seed of the woman. Over the centuries this promise was repeated with more clarity.
Four thousand years later, among the few who were actively looking for the Messiah, were a group of astronomers, presumably three in number, who diligently anticipated His coming. Spotting an unusually bright star, they believed in their hearts that this was God’s sign that the time had come for their hopes to be fulfilled. Accordingly, they made arrangements at once to strike out across the dessert to pay homage to the great King.
I clicked on the television one day and heard a priest proclaiming that the stories of the Nativity and the Resurrection are really fables from which we can draw spiritual lessons. To back up his argument, he asked, “Do you really believe that God dragged a star across the sky slow enough that the wise men could follow it across the desert to Jerusalem?”
No, I don’t believe that. Neither did Matthew, the apostle who recorded the Magi’s visit to the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Nowhere does Scripture state that the Wise men followed a star across the desert.
Mathew wrote, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him (Matthew 2:1,2).
In his book, Born in Bethlehem, H.W. Van Der Vaart Smit explained well the appearance of the star.
“An astronomical event, which explains the references in Matthew and helps and helps fix the birth year of Jesus, actually did occur in history, namely the major conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn…
Astronomy, is the most exact of all sciences; it is pure mathematics, and it’s calculations can be relied upon... The double star in the Near East was visible on any clear night for nine months from the beginning of April, and could be observed sometimes before and sometimes after midnight, and at times throughout the entire night.”
These astronomers knew the Christ was to be born in the land of Judea.
Naturally, they would assume the promised king would be born in the palace in Jerusalem. The visit to Jerusalem was not a mistake, however, but part of God’s plan for the message of Messiah’s birth to reach the leaders, both political and religious. Sadly, we have no record that anyone of them even went to investigate the truth for himself.
After receiving a cold reception in Jerusalem, the visitors may have had some conflicting questions tumbling around in their minds. Why were these Jewish scribes and teachers not excited at the birth of their King?
In any case, they set out that same night for the little village of Bethlehem. To their surprise and joy as the travelers made their ascend to Bethlehem, the star they had seen in the east appeared just above the crest of one of the two hills on which Bethlehem is situated. Any doubts that may have risen in their minds were erased by this confirmation from God that the Messiah indeed was born in this place. Through this star God spoke into their hearts the assurance that they were about to see the long-awaited Savior and they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
The conjunction of the two planets could be seen three times that year. So this would have been the second conjunction. Coincidence? Mere chance? Or Divine arrangement?
Jesus is referred to in Scripture as “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” In other words, before God brought the world into existence, plans were laid for Christ to descend to this planet in human form to die for man’s sin. Could He not schedule the movements of the planets in their orbits so that this conjunction of the two planets would occur at just the precise time He wanted to inform the Wise Men when to start on their journey and again nine months later, to confirm that they had reached their destination?
The incarnation of the Son of God was of such significance that God could have arranged the laws of nature 4000 years before to join in announcing the great event. Indeed God makes the forces of nature to display His power and purpose. This phenomena of the meeting of Saturn and Jupiter did not occur again until 1981 and is not expected to happen again until 2238.
When God speaks, every detail carries significance. As we look forward to the Christmas season, I intend to continue checking out the Scriptural account to learn more about the significance of the details mentioned in connection with the advent story that have so often been skipped over or misinterpreted.