When I was a child, Christmas Eve was a magical time. Perhaps it was the air of excitement and anticipation. Perhaps it was the lights on the Christmas tree, casting a soft glow on the darkened living room throughout the long evenings. Perhaps it was the carols we sang. Perhaps it was the Christmas story itself, with all its mystery and awe.
Maybe that’s what made Christmas Eve so magical: I accepted without reservation the Christmas story in its entirety – from a virgin giving birth to the Son of God in a stable, to angels announcing the birth to lowly shepherds, to a bright star leading the Magi to Jesus. I understood that whatever science or nature could not explain, God could. After all, He is the Creator and set the laws of nature in motion. No doubt poisoned Christmas for me.
These days, however, there are those who would remove the reason for the season, who scoff at the miracles and spoil the magic, who reject that which cannot be explained except by the touch of God.
The Magi, learned men from the East, could have scoffed, too. But they didn’t reject what their own eyes saw – a colossal star with a radiance that shone even during the day. These astronomer-mathematicians recognized the importance of this brilliant star that appeared at the time of Jesus’ birth.
But how did these heathen Gentiles, these nonbelievers, know that a Jewish king was born?
Familiar with the prophecies of Daniel, who was an exile in their land hundreds of years earlier, these wise men who studied the heavens knew the Jews were waiting for a Messiah promised by God Himself, someone who would save them and rule them forever.
They knew the Hebrews considered the constellation Pisces as representing their own nation. The planet Saturn, viewed as a wandering star, represented Jerusalem, their capital city. Jupiter, another “wandering star,” denoted royalty.
When Jupiter and Saturn converged in Pisces three times in two months, the wise men knew something big was about to happen. This astronomic event normally occurred only once every 804 years. Then a few months later, Mars joined Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation.
As they puzzled over the meaning of this, they noted the first time this happened was on the Jewish Day of Atonement. Putting all this together, they reasoned that a Hebrew king was about to be born in Judea.
Then, another amazing event occurred: A brilliant new star appeared in the constellation Aquila (the eagle), brighter than anything they’d ever seen, so intense it could be seen in the daytime. To the wise men, this brilliant new star, actually an exploding star called a nova, was the announcement they were waiting for: The King of the Jews had been born.
A king whose birth even the heavens proclaimed was a king they had to see. So they prepared for the long trip to Bethlehem, where they found the infant king. They didn’t doubt when they found the child not in a palace, but in a humble house. They didn’t doubt when they saw how poor his parents were.
They believed what most Jews in that day weren’t even aware of – that this child was both a King and a God. When they presented their costly gifts – gifts denoting royalty – they worshiped Him.
For these astronomical events to come together at the very time Jesus was born, for Gentile magi to recognize the significance of it all, for this star to lead them to the exact location of the child they were seeking – can only be explained by the touch of the Divine – God reaching out and making the impossible happen.
The wise men – nonbelievers – believed the miracle in the sky and followed that star until it led them to the Savior.
What about you? Are you following that star?
Jesus, when the wise men saw the star that led to You, they rejoiced with “exceedingly great joy.” Fill me with this joy every day as I follow the star that leads to You. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Matthew 2:1-12