“Star of Wonder, Star of Night.” Have you ever wondered about the star itself? What was it that prompted these magi, or ancient astrologers, to undertake the difficult journey? What kind of a star was it?
It seems that every year around this time there are magazine articles or internet postings or television documentaries that purport to explain what the Star of Bethlehem may have been. Some people say it may have been a nova or a supernova—a star that exploded and lit up the skies for months on end. Perhaps it was a comet. An-other theory is that the Star of Bethlehem may have been a conjunction of the two planets Jupiter and Saturn.
Any of these phenomena might account for the appear-ance of the star in Matthew 2:2, when the wise men first begin their journey. But what would account for the strange behavior of the star in Matthew 2:9, when it leads the magi some twenty miles south of Jerusalem, makes a left turn at the Bethlehem town gate, and then a three-quarters right turn at Samuel’s olive press and left again at the top of the hill until it arrives at the holy fami-ly’s home? No comet, planetary conjunction, or superno-va can explain the star’s meandering course in verse nine. It is beyond explanation. And maybe Matthew doesn’t want us to explain it.
Barbara Brown Taylor is a gifted Episcopalian preacher and writer. In one of her books she describes how she got a little bit tired of trying to explain traditional Christian beliefs. She said she understood why the church fathers had formulated the creeds and other statements of orthodox belief, but she said that the official statements of belief never seized her heart the way that the underlying mysteries themselves did. She also said that the parts of the Christian story that had drawn her into the church were not the believing parts but the beholding parts:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock . . .”
“Behold, the lamb of God . . .”
“Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people . . .”
“Behold, there came wise men from the east . . .”
Behold is one of those words that says, “Pay attention! I’m about to tell you a story.”
If the story ever gets a little bit stale, especially after witnessing our 40th or 50th Christmas pageant in a row, perhaps we can hear that ancient invitation to behold, to watch with new eyes and listen with new ears. Whether we come to the faith seeking evidence or whether we’re caught up in the wonder of the story itself, there is an invitation in the Scriptures to behold. Just for a moment, pay attention. This is a story to behold.
Grace and Peace, Pastor Jack