In this series spelling out the word C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S the letter “S” has an abundance of words related to Christmas that people quickly can recall. Some of that lengthy list includes: Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, Scrooge, season’s greetings, shopping, sleigh, sleigh bells, snow, snowman, stockings, and sugar plums. But the word I did not mention that the song highlights is of course star.
I am not talking about the star many will put on the top of their Christmas tree, of course, but the star Matthew writes about in his gospel in chapter 2:1-12 that tells the wonderful story of the wise men (magi). Sometimes the parts of the Christmas story get confused and people think it was the star that appeared to the shepherds rather than the wise men.
This famous star has created a lot of curiosity over time and a lot has been written and speculated about this particular star. Some have believed it was a luminous meteor that appeared under special laws for a special purpose. Others suggest that it was an extraordinary comet that appeared in lower regions of the air and differed so significantly from anything ever seen in the night sky that it signified something uncommon or extraordinary.
What scripture tells us in the passage in Matthew is that God used the star to guide these wise men to where Jesus was.
The wise men, magi, who followed this star are unnamed and though they came “from the East”, we do not have a clear indication of what nations. What is striking (and we sometimes miss) is these wise men were Gentiles. At the very beginning of Jesus’s time on earth, they gave regard and respect to Him and inquired of Him. (The Jews of that time did not.) How that speaks to how we sometimes miss that powerful truth until the conversion of Saul to Paul and the outreach to the Gentiles through him after Jesus has risen and ascended into heaven.
It also seems certain these men were scholars of that time who studied the arts and the teachings of cultures and places beyond their own homes. Their own culture might have been made of idol worshippers who took seriously the movement of planets and stars. When they first spoke to Herod about their journey and quest, it is evident they knew this was a sign of “the king of the Jews”. That is extraordinary and speaks to their studies and knowledge. What we know without question is they were a part of God’s plan and purpose.
They signaled that even though Israel was God’s chosen people, He loved the Gentiles and would make a place for them in His Kingdom through belief in Jesus and acceptance of His gift of grace.
The star was not unlike a candle in a window or a light streaming out over the waters from a lighthouse to help lead to home. It was a magnificent light, but there was a more significant light in this story.
The light of this star pointed to “the” light, Jesus Christ. Scripture makes this clear. One place is John 8:12 (ESV) when Jesus tells His listeners plainly:
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The light of the extraordinary star was pointing to a greater light, One sent to bring light into the darkness of this world. He was the One who was and is light and all who follow this Light will find their way home to our Father God.
I wonder how often we miss the symbolism God uses over and over again to tell us what He wants us to know about Him (and everything else). He is light! Nothing is hidden in light and light and truth are often used synonymously. How odd it is that we would be deluded into thinking God is unknowable or think He is obscure. What an enemy ploy that is!
He is not common, but extraordinary. He is light and truth and also mystical. He wants us close to Him always and yet He is holy. He is the Creator and we but the creation and still He longs for us to be His.
As we drive through our neighborhoods at this time of year, Christmas lights abound. They are beautiful and festive and give us a lot of pleasure to see, but let us not forget the star that gave light pointing to the Light of the world, Jesus. One of the reasons God sent Him to us was to point the way home even if we were far from Him. That’s still true today.
If we will follow the Light, Jesus, we will find the way, the truth, and the life!