As we approach Christmas this year, we are treated to a rare celestial event. On Monday, Saturn and Jupiter will converge in the evening sky to form a bright binary "star" in the heavens.
The two planets are clearly visible now on the western horizon in the early evening after sunset — day by day moving closer to one another. It has been 800 years since this convergence occurred in such close proximity when visible from the earth. This phenomenon is known as “The Christmas Star,” dubbed so by astronomers who have related this event to the birth of Christ. They consider it a likely possibility that this type of convergence could have been the star in the heavens that guided the wise men to Jesus the Messiah.
The ancient wise men were often well versed in literature, mathematics, and astronomy — tracking the moments of the celestial lights across the heavens. Of course, in those days they did not yet comprehend the difference between the stars and the planets. This kind of rare event in the heavens would certainly catch their attention, and the significance of what was about to take place clearly inspired them onward in a journey to Jerusalem.
Remember the Magi came from the East, riding westward following the star that appeared low on the western horizon. Just like the Christmas Star we are observing now take shape in the evening sky. This event in the heavens has been developing for some months. I have been watching these planets move across the night sky since September. This would have given the Magi the time they needed to make the journey. Imagine their faith: riding into the west tracking the star as it grew closer to merging. It was their guide that brought them directly into Jerusalem. There they inquired at the temple and were directed to Bethlehem where they found Jesus and offered him the gifts entitled to a king.
The wise men recognized the sign in the heavens placed there by God himself. These ancient travelers knew of a promise that this event would indicate the birth of the King of the Jews — God’s chosen people — and by extension king of all the nations. They knew the signs and they knew the prophecy. The star and the promise together brought them into the presence of Christ. All of this combines to form the wonder of Christmas: “Immanuel God is with us.”
This year the Christmas Star has appeared once again, directing our attention upward to the heavenly Jerusalem. We see the sign appearing and growing closer to completion day by day. Like the wise men of old, we know the words of promise. Prophecies already fulfilled, “Unto us, a child is born, unto us a son is given … he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Prince of Peace.” Other prophecies awaiting fulfillment when Jesus returns once again: “They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain … the lion will lie down with the lamb … and the earth will be filled with the glory of God and the waters cover the sea.”
Like the wise men, we know the signs and we know the promises. Together they form a Christmas Star appearing on the horizon of our lives, directing us upward to the heavens and onward toward Christ. The star and the prophecies are calling us not to just know the story, but to live the story.
In these days of Christmas, let us join with the Magi of old on making our own journey to find the messiah born in Bethlehem: Jesus our savior. Has there ever been such a time that we needed him more than now? I pray that you will find him once again, and the heavens will open in your life and we will hear the choirs of angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest! And on Earth peace good will toward men!”
God bless you and Merry Christmas.
The Rev. Jack Estes is the pastor of Ascension Anglican Church.