Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

The Christmas Star “Explained” …


the-christmas-starMatthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” … 9 they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.

As an amateur astronomer, there are few times of year that frustrate me as much as right now. Every year it seems, in one astronomy magazine or another, someone is trying to give the definitive “explanation” for the Christmas Star (actually a center-piece of today’s celebration of Epiphany). Some astronomers are gracious enough to try and do it as a way of giving the nod to the quaint (but nice) traditions of the Christian holiday. In essence giving proof that it might actually have been real. Others are simply out to try and debunk Christianity and anything relating to it outright. In essence saying don’t be a chump. But unfortunately, in almost every single case, whether well intentioned or not, they end up doing neither well … much less definitively.

You see, the problem is that they all begin from the wrong place, so there is no possible way they can end up in the right one. Each astronomer I have ever read on the subject (and I have been subjected to many of them over the years!) is more than happy to trace back the motions of the planets and known solar system bodies like asteroids and comets. Most are willing to consider such possibilities as supernovae, GRB’s (gamma ray bursts), rare alignments and alternate datings according to Jewish, Roman or ancient Babylonian astrological calendars. But few are ever willing to take God’s Word at face value.

Sadly the only one I have encountered who was willing to do so, did so only so that he could definitively laugh it off as full of contradictions and nonsense which cannot be believed. Stars that come and go, stars that move and then stop just can’t be explained! But at least he read Matthew’s account for what it said.

Such disregard for the Word, and the clear meaning it conveys – as it is written – is a subtle and all-to-familiar trap into which we “learned” people so often fall. Trying to make sense of what “really” was when what the Bible says couldn’t possibly be. And we don’t just do it with the Christmas star, we do it with the Scripture’s clear words on the sanctity of life, the roles of men and women, the definition of marriage, the nature and power of the sacraments. If it doesn’t make sense we try to cram it into a box where it might (with no regard of what we might be losing or trimming to make it work!)

As if we and we alone in all the history of the world are the first to be capable of judging such things rightly, when so many who went before were so obviously wrong. As if our sense or wisdom or understanding is somehow better than God’s! Yet trying to find completely natural (and rational) explanations for the supernatural workings of God simply deny that God is truly supernatural or even at work!

So what was the Christmas Star? I don’t know, nor do I need to know. How do we explain it? We don’t, because we can’t. Begin your quest in the right place and you are much more likely to end up where you need to be. When you consider again the Christmas Star, this Epiphany be like the truly wise men of old and simply heed its call to follow where it leads in all its supernatural strangeness … to the Saviour of the world, Jesus who is Christ, the Lord. Amen.


Author: kenmaher

When I'm not working I enjoy Astronomy, Camping, Comic Books, Epic Fantasy Novels, Games (both playing and designing), Hiking, Juggling, Sci-fi, and building strange things out of pvc pipe. I also enjoy being an honorary pre-schooler with my four great children ... much to their mother's dismay.

3 thoughts on “The Christmas Star “Explained” …

  1. I encourage you to look up http://www.bethlehemstar.net. Its a fascinating recount, and scientific. I’m not a religious person, but this account gave me chills. No other individual, to what I have read, has given such a scientific account that is backed by the Bible at the same time. Your argument is blind faith, and to that I must disagree. You are saying that it MUST be supernatual, unexplainable because it’s God’s way. That’s how the “Church” has gained it’s powers over the ignorant, by simply trying to convince folks that God is unapproachable, indescribable, and the “mystery of faith” can and should never be questioned. That’s just ignorant. Would God REALLY not want to you examine the scientific approach that if proven plausible, could witness his greatness to millions if only they took the time to do so? You boast your faith to yourself only sir. Rationality could very well be a modern day miracle sir, have you pondered this? An explanation of the Christmas Star could very well be the modern day ‘water to wine’ witness that God has led us to finally find, a tangible explanation that those without faith may need. Its not about you sir and YOUR needs, it about everyone else’ needs.

  2. John, first let me thank you for taking the time to leave your comment. I appreciate hearing from others, especially if we don’t always see eye-to-eye. It is only in the discussion that we come to understand one another better. Secondly, no need to be so formal, “sir” is not necessary, Ken will do fine.

    I was happy to go to the website you suggested. You are correct, in that the authors did put a lot of work into their theory, and researched it well. In my original post these fellows would fall into that first, and well-intentioned company I mentioned. I am familiar with their proposal of the Jovian/Regulus alignment theory, having heard it presented by someone else several years ago. In the many theories out there it has much to commend itself and would seem to tie up many of the loose ends of speculation nicely … but the long and the short of the matter is that we simply don’t know for sure.

    It could be true IF the wise men were indeed Babylonian Astrologers with their tendency to find import in the placement of the stars and constellations, IF they were well acquainted with the Hebrew scriptures (especially Isaiah chapter 60), IF they had the Roman understanding of Jupiter’s importance (religiously speaking), IF one could prove definitively that the Lion of Judah (again, mentioned in the scriptures) was widely and specifically connected to the constellation Leo Major, IF the dating of 3-2 BC can be meshed with other historical data like that of the Census called by Augustus when Quirinius was governor of Syria (which we know was undertaken in 8 BC – some 5-6 years out of sync with this idea). None of this is insurmountable, but none of it is conclusive either.

    And that was my point in the original post. I apologize if I didn’t state it well. I am not trying to hold up or idealize a blind faith to anyone. Indeed, Christianity (unlike other world religions) is a religion that is entirely historical. Spectacularly so! The evidence to the Christian faith’s historicity (as backed up by every field of science) is simply overwhelming. I would never tell anyone to shy away from the evidence. Indeed, I would encourage everyone to study it all closely for themselves.

    Rather than trying to promote a blind faith I was cautioning against a conditional faith. The idea that unless the stuff of the Scriptures can be explained rationally, or naturally, it need not be counted as valid or real.

    It has always struck me as somewhat strange that in a quest to prove the reality of God and His actions in our world (a highly supernatural idea) people will try to find explanations that don’t actually require Him to be involved (other than as the one who somehow set all things into motion somewhere in the past).

    Case in point, what if we could “definitively” say that this Jovian conjunction with Regulus with subsequent retrograde motion was the star of Bethlehem giving portents, moving and stopping, as the Scriptures say – Would this cause anyone to come to faith? If one were to give their ascent to believe based upon this rational hypothesis, what are they to do when they encounter Joshua’s day when the sun stood still, or the flood of Noah, or the 6 days of creation … how much proof will be enough to maintain that ascent of faith conditional upon the scientifically plausible explanations available today?

    Further, to even embark upon such theoretical attempts to rationalize and legitimize the Biblical account an underlying assumption must first be made. And that assumption is that our reason, our science, or our understanding, sits in a place of authority over the Word of God, or has a higher priority of truth than the Word of God.

    If such is true, then why even bother to prove the validity of the account of a God, and His Christmas star, who cannot be believed outside of the credibility we first grant Him through rational explanation.

    As this response is already overly long, I will suggest that if you are so inclined we can certainly discuss this further, particularly why God’s Word alone is more than enough proof, historically and evidentially speaking, and is in and of itself is more than enough tangible evidence for those truly seeking faith. (I would encourage you to read Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 … especially the last three verses)

    Again, thank you for taking the time to reply, and for the interesting discussion on this important topic! I have enjoyed it so far.

  3. Pingback: Standing still | grandfathersky

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