12.30.2005

The Star of Bethlehem

Star of BethlehemThe Star of Bethlehem has been laying quite heavy on my mind lately, as evidenced by my recent series, The Rising of Immanuel. As I read over accounts of Christ's birth, I come to wonder why those people alive at that time who saw the star shining every night took no heed of it. It is possible, of course, that the star was visible only to a few, similar to the instance in Acts 9 when Christ appeared visibly to Saul (later Paul) but not to those with him. But I believe the answer goes deeper. Consider this for a moment from the perspective of a long-time resident of Bethlehem. You have seen wars won and wars lost, Messiah wannabes cropping up right and left, and a host of "sensational" rumors quickly proven to be nothing but. Now a bright star makes it hard to sleep at night, and the news is spreading around town that the Messiah has been born. So what? You have better things to do. The Bible says that the Magi or Magoi followed the star all the way from Persia. In this case, it was visible not only in Bethlehem but for hundreds of miles around; a beacon of light for the entire world to see. Yet there is no record of anyone other than these Persian kings inquiring as to the meaning of this star. Indeed, Herod had to ask the Magoi when the star had first appeared. It seems that intense apathy reigned in the hearts of the men of that time. Intense apathy to be sure. It would require an extreme disinterest to totally ignore such an awe-commanding signal of the Messiah's coming. Paul "sheds some light" on this subject in his second letter to the churches in Corinth:
"But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:3,4,6
The god of this age. It is the policy of our God to bring hidden things to light, to reveal mysteries, and to shine the Truth wherever confusion is found. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says that "God is not the author of confusion but of peace." But the devil has a different plan. He learned early that rank insubordination was never a good idea; this got him thrown from God's presence in the first place. When he approached Eve in the Garden of Eden, he deceived her before instigating her to rebellion against God. He is one who desires confusion and strife, not understanding. 2 Peter 3 declares that the ungodly "willfully forget" that which would do them good, since they walk after their own lusts. This is what the devil wants most of all: a spirit of intense apathy so that even if people know the Truth, they will not receive it. So how shall we then live? It is our responsibility to shine the Light of Christ in this dying world, piercing the darkness of the apathy that enshrounds our culture and our world today. In Him, David S. MacMillan III

2 comments:

MVB said...

Hmmm... Good point. I never thought of that. This one star bright above all others and no one payed any attention to it.

Collatine said...

Man, I just discovered your blog, and i'm really enjoying it.

I think the modern Christian interpretation of the Star of Bethlehem is generally wrong. First of all, scripture doesn't say there were three of them. Why do we think three? Hollywood.

Also, Scripture doesn't say the star hung in space for days and days or months and months, waiting for the Magi to find the stables... Again, that's Hollywood.

Let's look at scripture with fresh eyes.

Genesis says the stars were given to tell the seasons. This is why Adam probably looked up and picked out twelve constellations that went across the sky during a year, and used them to form a 12 month calendar. Later, people decided that the stars weren't just for telling time, but were worshiped and looked to for direction (i.e., astrology).

The Magi were either astrologers or understood the original purpose of the stars.

One night, an event in space lit up the night sky. Lots of people noted. Many probably panicked; others just wondered what it meant. The astrologers out east took note and KNEW it meant something, so they started searching ancient prophecies for it. That included Hebrew scripture, which would have had a good reputation there, and found the prophecies of Christ. So they deduced it was "His star" and they started searching for Him. It probably took them a couple years to find the Christ child. (Otherwise, Herod wouldn't have had kids 2 years and younger killed).

I don't believe the star lingered in the heavens over Bethlehem for days and days while the Magi crossed hundreds of miles of desert overnight. They had to gather probably a very large caravan, consult with other learned men, and generally plan a very intentional excursion West in a very dangerous and very large world.

Certainly Joseph didn't wait around in a stable for days and days for Magi bearing gold...

Probably he had resettled in his historical town (he probably read up on prophetic scripture and realized he'd better just stay in Bethlehem for a while) as a skilled laborer, probably did well enough to have some more children, and then after the Magi came and left, fled to Egypt, using the gold to finance the trip.