Were you able to see the Christmas Star this past Monday night? Every 20 years Saturn and Jupiter come close enough that if it occurs at night they create a brighter “star.” However, scientists tell us that this year’s conjunction, which happened in the early evening of the winter solstice, appeared closer than it has since just before dawn on March 4, 1226.
At the time of creation, God put the stars and planets in place and set them in motion (Genesis 1:14-18). Astronomers have been observing and charting them since that time. Stop and think about it, science is defined as “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” The next time someone says to you science and religion don’t mix, remind them that science exists only because God created the universe and gave the scientists something to study. In fact, the very concept of a reproducible scientific experiment demands that God’s creation will be the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, just like He is.
The recent appearance of the Christmas Star reminded me that God is still in charge. He has not changed His ways, and He will fulfill every promise He has made.
Thousands of years after God created the universe, astronomers (wise men) from the east observed: “a star” that they associated with Jewish prophecy concerning the birth of a uniquely anointed king—The Messiah (Matthew 2:1-12). Scholars still debate what that star was, with some suggesting it was the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Whatever the star was, it brought scientists to the palace of King Herod in Jerusalem with the assumption that they would have the privilege of presenting gifts to a newborn that was destined to be king of the Jews.
Instead of seeing a newborn king they created confusion and observed a king who quickly became deeply disturbed and defensive. Herod asked clarifying questions about the appearance of the star, and then he sent them on their way with a request, “When you find him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship him.” We can be pretty sure of Herod’s motives based on how he responded when the scientists didn’t report back to him (Matt 2:16-18).
The scientists also encountered religious leaders who were quickly able to provide additional prophecy that clarified that this uniquely anointed king was to be born in Bethlehem not Jerusalem. However, the religious leaders were either uninterested in or unimpressed by the scientist’s observations. None of them took time to travel with them even though Bethlehem was only a few miles from Jerusalem.
The motives of the Jewish leaders are not as easily discerned. Were they offended that God was willing to use unwashed Gentiles? Were they exhibiting religious arrogance? Did their in-depth interpretation of the Holy Scriptures indicate that it wasn’t the right time? Were they revealing their intellectual blindness? Was their religion a purely legalistic, ritualistic faith? Were they spiritually indifferent?
My motives were challenged recently as I read the book Life is all about Relationships. It was written by a friend of mine, Dr. Leo Endel. For those who know me, you are aware that my personality moves naturally to the task side of the task—relationship pendulum. I was reminded as I read it, that as task-oriented as God is--what He said He would do He will always do—He always does it through relationships. It is interesting that the cover of the book shows people in relationships silhouetted against a starry night sky—which includes a particularly bright star.
What is God telling you through the Christmas Star?
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, DoM
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.