Star of Bethlehem

If you’re a stargazer or an educator, you probably know that tonight (Dec. 21, 2020) is a rare planetary alignment. Articles like this one suggest it may be the “Star of Bethlehem.” Is that true? Let’s talk about it.

Planetary Alignment

Some may be asking, “What’s happening Dec. 21, 2020?” That night the planets Saturn and Jupiter will align to create an extra bright “star” on the southwestern horizon. This rare events only happens every 800 years. I can’t wait to see it!

Johannes Kepler (an astronomer) suggested in 1606 that this was the original Star of Bethlehem. Saturn and Jupiter were in alignment in May/June and September/October and December of 7 BC. Then Mars joined the duo, creating triple conjunction. This only occurs every 805 years. It was for this reason that Kepler dated Jesus’ birth to 7 or 6 BC. (For more about the date of the birth of Christ, see the video below.)

These particular planets held great meaning for astrologers contemporary to Christ’s birth. Jupiter was the “star” of kings. Saturn referred to the Jews and the sabbath. It was also the symbol of new life.

Michael Molnar adds that, at the time of Christ, the sun and moon came into alignment with Jupiter and Saturn as well, creating a Vernal Equinox. This rare event is not expected to repeat itself for at least 500,000 years.

Other “Star of Bethlehem” Theories

Other suggestions put forth to explain the Star of Bethlehem include:

  • a nova or supernova (explosion of a star)
  • Halley’s comet (visible in 12/11 BC which is too early)
  • A “miracle” star (similar to the way God led the people of Israel in the wilderness in Ex. 13:21-22)

Interestingly, Chinese records refer to comets or supernovas in 5 and 4 BC.

How did the Maji know?

Who were the Maji and how did they know it was a special star? Maji by definition were trained astrologers and diviners from the East. They were very respected in the Greco-Roman world.

What I find most fascinating about them is how they connected this unique astrological appearance/sign with the Messiah. How did they know about the coming Messiah?

You may remember that Babylon conquered Jerusalem in 597 BC. At that time, they took the smartest and best of Jerusalem’s young men to be trained in the capital city of Babylon (the most important city “in the east” for that part of the world). Among them were Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1:1-6). Daniel ended up serving in the highest levels of Babylonian society.

Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. (Dan. 2:48 NIV)

Daniel also never forgot the Lord his God. In a society where learning was highly valued, he would have shared his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures with Babylon’s wise men. This included the prophecies about the Messiah.

So what?

All this stuff is very interesting, but it’s not just trivia. The Star of Bethlehem is not important in and of itself. It is important because of what it highlighted. The King whose birth was marked by this astrological sign is the King of kings. His birth was so important, that God brought Gentile (non-Jewish) Maji to come to worship Him (Matthew 2:1-2). This Child was not just an earthly threat to the current ruler, Herod. He was a King who rules through eternity.

As you look to the heavens and celebrate this unique planetary alignment, possibly the Star of Bethlehem (or part of it), think about the One who overcomes the darkness with an even greater light, the One born that night in the City of David.

In the beginning, the Word was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through him. Nothing that has been made was made without him. Life was in him, and that life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness has not overcome the light.

There was a man sent from God. His name was John. He came to be a witness about that light. He was a witness so that all people might believe. John himself was not the light. He came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 The Word was in the world. And the world was made through him. But the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to what was his own. But his own people did not accept him. 12 Some people did accept him and did believe in his name. He gave them the right to become children of God. 13 To be a child of God has nothing to do with human parents. Children of God are not born because of human choice or because a husband wants them to be born. They are born because of what God does.

14 The Word became a human being. He made his home with us. We have seen his glory. It is the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father. And the Word was full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-14 (NIRV)

Praise God for sending Jesus, the King of kings, the Light which overcomes the darkness! (Learn more here.)

When was Jesus Born?

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