The Mystery of the Christmas Star
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, December 13, 2020
If you follow the news online,
on TV or in the newspapers,
you may have noticed stories in recent days
with the following headlines:
“‘Christmas Star’ will appear on Dec 21st
as Jupiter and Saturn align,”
“Spectacular Christmas star
appearing this month.
When is the best time to see it?”
“Rare ‘Christmas star’
will light up the sky on winter solstice.”
The stories go on to explain that 2020 will see
a rare occurrence that hasn’t happened
for 800 years
and that some claim may be what led the Wise Men
to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
The more technical website Astronomy.com
explains it this way: It says,
On December 21, Jupiter and Saturn
will appear closer in Earth’s night sky
than they have since 1226 A.D.
The two bright planets will appear to be separated
by just 1/5th the width of the moon
and may appear, at first glance,
to be just one bright star.
Some of the news stories point out
that the last time this happened
was almost 800 years ago,
when Genghis Khan invaded Russia
and the 5th Crusade marched into Egypt.
And some of the news reports suggest this to be
“one of the theories to explain
the biblical “Christmas Star.”
Another report says,
“Some astronomers theorize
that the Star of Bethlehem in the biblical story
may have been a rare triple conjunction
of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus.
Others point to a supernova
around 5 B.C. as a possible explanation.”
Venus is the brightest of all the planets,
and adding it to what will appear on Dec 21st this year
would have made a very noticeable
And a supernova is an exploding star—
which looks like an extremely bright star
that can be seen even during the daytime.
Other theories speculate that a comet
may have lit up the sky—visible both day and night—
as the Christmas Star 2000 years ago.
So, what about these news reports and theories?
Do they really explain how Wise Men from the East
were led to the baby Jesus?
This is just one of the mysteries
surrounding the Star of Bethlehem:
what, exactly, was it?
Another mystery involves the question of why
God would show a star to Eastern astrologers,
when astrology is a form of divination
condemned in the Bible—
a practice forbidden to Jews
and Christians alike.
Why would God announce Jesus’ birth
to pagan followers of some false Eastern religion,
instead of to his Chosen People, the Jews?
And, why did the Christmas star,
lead the Wise Men to Jerusalem—
—some people ask—
where their appearance tipped off King Herod
to the birth of a rival
to his family’s hereditary throne,
leading to Herod’s slaughter of the babies of Bethlehem?
Why didn’t the star lead the Wise Men
straight to Bethlehem, in the first place?
These questions all contribute to the mystery
that surrounds the Christmas star,
and that leads even non-Christians
to speculate about it in discussions
that generate headline news.
Well, if we look more closely at the Bible,
we can put most of these mysteries to rest.
Some of these questions are generated
by failure to pay attention to
what Scripture actually says,
or failure to read and believe the Bible at all.
So, let’s take a closer look.
The account begins
with the 1st Verse of Matthew Chapter 2.
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.”
Now notice what the Scripture says about the star,
and what it doesn’t say.
Does it say that the star led them to Jerusalem?
No, it says simply that “we saw his star in the east.”
The Wise Men saw the star back home, in the east,
where they came from—probably in Babylon.
It does not say that the Star went on ahead of them,
leading them to Jerusalem.
While in the East, they interpreted this star to mean that
a new “King of the Jews” had been born.
So, naturally, they went to the Jewish capital Jerusalem
expecting to find the newborn King there.
A popular Christmas Carol says they
went through “field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star”—
but the Bible doesn’t say that.
It does not say they followed the star to Jerusalem.
Rather, foreigners would expect Jerusalem was where
the King of the Jews would be born, so they went there.
Their arrival on such a mission
caused quite a stir in the city.
And King Herod was upset at the thought of a new King
who would rule instead of his royal heirs to the throne.
Matthew’s account continues,
3 When King Herod heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Christ would be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is written through the prophet,
6 ‘You Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are in no way least among the princes of Judah:
for out of you shall come a governor,
who shall shepherd my people, Israel.’” [Micah 5:2]
7 Then Herod secretly called the wise men, and learned from them exactly what time the star appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child. When you have found him, bring me word, so that I also may come and worship him.”
Bethlehem was about 5 miles South of Jerusalem,
and the Wise Men resumed their trek,
for that short distance.
The Bible tells us it was only at this point
that the Wise Men saw the Star again—
and this time it did lead them.
9 They, having heard the king, went their way; and behold, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
So, it’s clear that this was the first time, now,
that they saw the Star again—
the first time since they had seen it
back home in the East.
And now the Star behaved differently,
and actually began to lead them,
as they took the road heading South
for the 5-mile trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
The Star now
“went before them, until it came and stood over where the young child was.”
So, now they actually followed the Star,
and it led them to the exact place where baby Jesus was.
Verse 11 says,
11 They came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.
This was some time after Jesus’ birth,
so baby Jesus was no longer in a manger in a stable,
but was in a house with Mary.
And the Star leading the Wise Men
came and stood over that house to identify it
as the place for them to find the newborn King.
This behavior of that Star now—
leading the way to Bethlehem,
and then stopping
and hovering over a particular house—
this proves it was not a supernova,
or a comet,
or a conjunction of planets like Jupiter, Saturn and Venus.
Any natural celestial phenomenon like that
would not have been able
to change course like that in the sky.
Planets, comets and supernova could not have
after not being seen since they left the East,
and could not have
led the way along the road heading south for 5 miles
from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
Planets, comets and supernova could not have
stopped and hovered over the house
where the baby Jesus was.
No, the Christmas Star was not any
natural phenomenon known to man.
It was a supernatural sign sent from God
to accomplish his will supernaturally.
Only a supernatural intervention from God
could explain a bright object in the sky
acting like that.
So, that solves the mystery of what the Christmas Star
was and was not.
But, another mystery remains:
Why would God announce Christ’s birth
by showing a sign from heaven
to non-Jewish pagan astrologers?
—which is what those Wise Men were.
Many English translations call them the “Magi”—
transliterating the Greek word μάγοι (magoi)
used by the Gospel writer Luke.
Strong's Greek dictionary defines it as
“A sorcerer, a magician, a wizard.”
The only other place in the New Testament
where the term occurs is at Acts 13:6 and 8
where it refers to the false prophet Elymas.
He is called a “MAGON” in Greek—
the singular for MAGI—
and English translations render it as
a “magician” or a “sorcerer.”
The Magi from the East who visited the baby Jesus
must have been practicers of astrology—
a form of magic or sorcery
that involves star gazing
and interpreting signs in the stars.
Astrology is a form of divination,
and all divination is prohibited by God.
Astrology is not to be confused with astronomy.
While astronomy is the scientific study of objects in the sky,
astrology is a form of fortune-telling
that claims to use stars and planets
to predict the future.
Those who practice astrology use Horoscopes
and consult the signs of the Zodiac
to get information by supernatural means
apart from God,
and contrary to God’s will.
Other forms of divination include Tarot cards,
palm reading, crystal ball gazing,
water witching using a divining rod,
consulting a Quija board
and so on.
The Bible condemns all forms of divination at
where it says,
10Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, practices divination or conjury, interprets omens, practices sorcery, 11casts spells, consults a medium or spiritist, or inquires of the dead.12For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD.
Astrology would have been among the magic arts
that new believers in Ephesus gave up
when they became Christians
and confessed and left their sins behind.
Acts Chapter 19 tells us,
18 ...many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
So, since who confess their sins and turn to God
give up magic and the Zodiac and Horoscopes
and other aspects of astrology,
why would God send the Christmas Star
to pagan Magi or astrologers?
We don’t really know,
because the Bible doesn’t tell us.
We can only speculate.
It may relate to the fact that Jesus came,
not just for the Jews,
but also for Gentiles of every nationality.
And, at that point of time in mankind’s history,
all of the non-Jewish people of the earth were pagans
and practiced false worship like astrology
They didn’t have the Law God gave to the Jews,
so they were not breaking that law
when they practiced astrology
in ignorance of God’s will.
So, God was reaching out to them where they were,
and calling them to come bow before the baby Jesus.
Or, God may have sent the Christmas Star to pagan foreigners
because the people of Jerusalem
wouldn’t have reacted appreciatively
like those pagan Wise Men did.
Centuries earlier, on another occasion,
Jeremiah 5:1 indicated
there was no one righteous in that city.
“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem,” says the LORD. “Look high and low; search throughout the city! If you can find even one just and honest person, I will not destroy the city.
But no just and honest person could be found.
Just think! When the Wise Men arrived
and did make known to the people of Jerusalem
that their promised Messianic King had been born,
no one showed any appreciation.
No one accompanied them to Bethlehem.
The people of Jerusalem were not like
the shepherds guarding their flocks by night
who dropped everything
and ran to see the baby Jesus.
Even Herod, who told the Wise Men[ NO SLIDE ]
“Go and search diligently for the young child. When you have found him, bring me word, so that I also may come and worship him.”
—even Herod was lying,
and actually wanted to kill the newborn baby.
So, maybe that’s why God sent the Christmas Star
to pagan foreigners
instead of to anyone in Jerusalem.
Only pagan foreigners would pack up their treasures,
mount their camels,
and set out on a 4-month-long trip
to bow down in worship
before the newborn baby Jesus.
The people of Jerusalem were too hard-hearted
to do a thing like that—
just as they were too hardened in their sins
30 years later when John the Baptist came
and called them to repent of their sins,
and just as they hard-heartedly
shouted out for Pontius Pilate
to send Jesus to the cross.
So, we’ve solved some parts
of the mystery of the Christmas Star,
but other parts remain a mystery.
We’ve seen proof that it was not
just some ordinary comet or supernova
or conjunction of planets.
It was not like the close alignment of Jupiter and Saturn
that the news media are telling us
will occur on December 21st this year.
The Christmas Star was a miraculous sign
specially sent by God.
But it’s still a mystery why God sent it
to the Magi, those pagan Babylonian astrologers.
Logically, though, it would seem
to have something to do with
Christ being, not just the Messiah of the Jews,
but also the Savior of the world—
the Savior for all of us,
no matter what our nationality.
Our ancestors were like those pagan Wise Men,
looking to Horoscopes and the Zodiac,
Tarot cards, and other forms of divination
and false hocus-pocus,
because our ancestors didn’t know the true God,
the God of Israel.
But God sent his Son to save us, too, not just the Jews.
Romans 11:25 says,
I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.
We Gentiles who come to Christ
are a lot like those pagan Babylonian astrologers.
We were pagan sinners,
separated from God by our sin and our ignorance.
We were looking for answers
in all the wrong places.
Then, suddenly, God made the light of Christ
shine into our hearts,
and he drew us to himself,
just as he sent that Star
to draw the Magi to Bethlehem.
They bowed in worship before the newborn King
and gave him their treasures.
May the true story of the Christmas Star
move us to fall to our knees
in appreciation and worship!
May it move us to follow Jesus
and to give our best service
to Christ the King!