Published December 20, 2011

Paul's Epistle...
"The Christmas Star"

We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

We're all familiar with the account of the Christmas star. It's a cherished part of the carols we sing and traditional Christmas pageants at church. But what was the Christmas star? I mean, what was it really?

The star, of course, was what the "wise men from the East" saw in the sky that led them to Bethlehem. "For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him'' (Matt. 2:2).

Over the years I have seen many theories about what the Star actually was. Quite often it's said to have been an unusual conjunction of stars and/or planets seen in the sky during the time when Jesus was born. In fact, some believe they can accurately date Jesus' birth from the time, readily available through computerized sky charts, when such a conjunction appeared in the skies over the Middle East.

The problem is that these "wise men" from the East — who some conjecture may actually have been descendants of Daniel's prophetic legacy from the days he had lived in that Babylonian region — "followed" the star. It seems to have moved appropriately. (Remember how God moved as a "pillar of fire" to lead the Israelites through the wilderness? See Exodus 13:21.) Surely the Magi were learned enough to know the difference between a "natural" event and something totally unnatural. And we have no direct evidence from Scripture that anyone else other than the "wise men" saw the Star. People of that era knew the skies well and were outside a lot. Surely such an unusual phenomenon would be been noticed and quickly would have become a matter of intense conjecture, perhaps fear or even panic. But we have no such accounts.

As intensely curious as I might be about the actual nature of that very special Star, I am very content to accept it as nothing less than a miraculous appearance — not exactly like anything else in history — uniquely provided by God to do exactly what the Bible says it did — to lead the wise men from the East to the place of Jesus' birth.

After all, why should the appearance of the Star be any less miraculous than the event to which it pointed? That, of course, was the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, to a virgin! (The word "miraculous" seems totally inadequate to describe the astonishingly unique nature of this event!)

So I believe God didn't tell us more about the Star in Scripture because, well, it just wasn't the important point being made. We are simply to take it at face value. And why not?  E. W. Maunder, writing in the International Standard Biblical Encyclopedia, puts it this way: "The star, whatever its physical nature, was of no importance except as a guide [for the Magi] to the birthplace of the infant Jesus. The reticence of the gospel narrative on all points, except those directly relating to our Lord Himself, enforces the truth that the Scriptures were not written to instruct us in astronomy, or in any of the physical sciences, but that we might have life eternal (John 17:3)."

Although God is perfectly content to work through nature — He created it, after all — I believe God certainly can and does provide miracles when necessary. The Star was — is — nothing less than an example of God's miraculous work in His creation. And it's a good reminder that He can and will, if necessary, do extraordinary miracles even today to accomplish His will in our lives.

Then we, if we are wise, should do as did those "wise men" of old — go out of our way to come to Him and fall down on our knees before Him — and worship Him.

- Paul

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