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Astral Phenomena

On Sunday night a few of us stood together gazing at the stars. We noticed flashes of light across the sky, and we all became amateur astronomers as we wondered at the phenomena. What we saw Sunday night was the Geminid meteor shower that produced as many as 140 meteor bursts every hour and was visible to anyone in the Northern Hemisphere who simply looked up at the sky and waited.

This Christmas we celebrate the birth of our King through worship. Over two thousand years ago magi from the east journeyed to Bethlehem to worship this same King. According to Matthew’s Gospel, they were led to Jesus by following a star.

Magi in ancient Media and Persia spent most of their lives studying the stars and the planets. They believed that future events could be foretold by signs in the sky. In particular, Persian documents from the period of Jesus speak of the birth of a king in Judea who would rule the whole earth.

We do not know exactly what the magi saw, but there is historical evidence that a multitude of astral phenomena occurred within 10 years of the birth of Jesus. Johannes Kepler, for whom NASA’s Kepler Mission was named, was a mathematician and seminary professor during the 17th century in Germany and Austria. He believed that the star that the magi saw was a supernova reported by astrologers in China around the time of the birth of Christ.

Of greater significance for us is why God went to such extremes to welcome His Son. Quite simply, God did not want us to miss Jesus. Why did God draw people from all over the known world from the common shepherds of Bethlehem to esteemed magi of Persia? How could so many people in Judea miss the birth of the Son of God? Why wouldn’t they listen? Are we really that dense? I am. I am thankful that my Father goes to extraordinary means to get my attention. May we see what God has placed right in front of us and may we worship our King.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11 (ESV)

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