Follow Your Star to a Greater Love

Christian or not, we are all familiar with the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus. One of the most well-known Christmas stories is the journey of the three Kings. These three Wise Men came to offer gifts to the baby Jesus. The Magi, as they were known, were astrologers who combed the night skies looking for anything that might be interpreted as a sign.

Dr.  Helen Jacobus of University College, London explains that the tradition of celestial events signifying important happenings on earth originated in Mesopotamia more than 3,000 years ago. The Magi were astrologers, following the custom of the day. Drawing up a nativity chart on the birth of a child was a common practice. What the Magi did was infinitely more interesting; they researched a nativity chart in reverse. They were looking for the baby heralded by the celestial signs they observed in the sky. As was the tradition, the Magi took their discovery to King Herod. It’s a fascinating story that warrants looking into, in more detail.

Was the Star of Bethlehem Real?

This is an intriguing question. Prof David Hughes, an astronomer from the University of Sheffield, UK, thinks there is something to this story. Having studied this question for years, he is now considered an expert on the subject. He acknowledges that any unusual celestial events would be considered significant to people like the Magi. So, happened in the night sky around the time of the birth of Jesus that caused these men to take note and make such an arduous journey?

Hughes concludes that the star of Bethlehem was probably not a star at all, and that it was more than one single event.

If you read the Bible carefully,” says Hughes, “the Magi saw something when they were in their own country – [probably Babylon] – so they travelled to Jerusalem and had a word with King Herod.”

According to the story, the Magi told Herod of the sign they had seen and, says Hughes, “when they left Jerusalem [for] Bethlehem, they saw something again”.

Hughes’s best explanation for this series of events is something known as a triple conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn – with the two planets coming close together in the sky three times over a short period.

“[This happens when] you get an alignment between the Sun, the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn,” says Hughes.

Tim O’Brien, associate director of Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, suggests this would have looked striking. “It’s remarkable how much your attention is drawn when two very bright objects come together in the sky,” he explains.

And once the planets lined up in their orbits, Earth would “overtake” the others, meaning that Jupiter and Saturn would appear to change direction in the night sky.

“At that time, people would have set great store by the motions of the planets,” says O’Brien.

“You would [only] get a triple conjunction like this about every 900 years,” he says, so for astronomers in Babylon 2,000 years ago, it would have been a signal of something very significant.

“A triple conjunction of this kind ticks all the boxes.” – http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20730828

For the Wise Men this rare event told them a significant nativity had occurred. And so, they set off to find the newborn King. You can read about it in Mathew Chapter 2.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[
b]

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”

Being Open to Something New

The real miracle of the nativity, to me, is that God could draw these people together to meet and protect His beloved son. The Magi, safeguarded the baby Jesus from Herod – they didn’t go back and report his whereabouts as promised. They sensed in their gut that Herod had an ulterior and bad motivation. Herod wished to nip this potential threat to his power in the bud. And so, the three Kings paid their respects to Jesus and returned home. I often wonder, what would have happened if they had followed up on this momentous meeting, offering further protection to the vulnerable child. Perhaps they could have given him safe passage in life, not just at his birth.

The three Kings are recorded in history, not because they were richer or had greater power than their contemporaries, but because they recognized the sign that was given to them and followed it. They listened to their gut and didn’t give up. They recognized what God was revealing something important to them. They knew a very special nativity had happened.

Follow Your Star

The three Kings were given a special sign that lead them to the baby Jesus. We respect that and consider these men to be unique. But the question is, “Did God only lead people 2,000 years ago or does He have the ability to lead and guide people today?”

  • Have you ever felt God leading you?
  • What happened?
  • What did you do?
  • How did it change you?

Think about that for a little while. God doesn’t just want to be present in the past, but present today, in your life! He has a star for you that He is hoping you will follow. But the thing is you have to first notice it, and second follow, despite what your rationale mind is telling you to act otherwise.

There’s another famous story in the Bible: the story of the shepherds. Even Charlie Brown knows this one. It goes like this:

“And there were in the same county shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:8–14

The shepherds were afraid! I think, in their position, I would have been afraid too. It’s interesting because in this account, we are told that they too were given a sign and this baby came for all people.

Call and Response

When God calls, AND you respond, amazing things can happen. I bet you have felt inklings in your life when something or someone was speaking to you. That’s the time to act.

I heard an interesting story this week. An African American man recorded a special Christmas story on Story Corp. As a boy, he lived in the South and was no stranger to poverty. One night, returning home, a boy cycled passed him, on what he swore was his brother’s bike. He arrived home, and sure enough his brother’s bike was missing. His father asked what direction the thief was travelling, and the three of them, father, brother and he set off to locate the missing bike.

They came across a shack, and sure enough the stolen bike was leaning up against the wall. The storyteller was incensed and wanted to meet out justice, but his father told him to calm down, and he would handle the situation. The father knocked on the door and was greeted by the thief’s grandfather. On learning what had happened, the grandfather was so upset. He pleaded with the father, recounting how his grandson had nothing for Christmas. He apologized over and over again.

The family retrieved the bike and went back home. On Christmas day, the father shocked his family by taking the cooked turkey and cutting it in half. In fact, he took all the food and divided it in half. He asked his son, “You have more than one bike, right?” The son said he did, and so they set off for the shack with the bike and food. In fact, the father added a $20 bill to the package, which was a lot of money at that time. The father worked as a chauffeur, and the mother as a domestic so they had a little more than the share cropper.

They knocked on the door of the shack, and were again greeted by the grandfather. When he saw all the gifts he started crying. The narrator of the story said, “It’s funny, I don’t even remember what I received for Christmas that year. I just remember how I felt when we delivered the gifts.”

God sent a sign AND the family responded. We want to create memories, not of the gifts we receive but the miracles we are all capable of making in the lives of others. What can I do to be a sign of God’s love in the lives of others? The star that people will see is not just a star in the sky over the town of Bethlehem but the light of love in your life.

What was Jesus saying through his life?

If Jesus’ birth and life were a sign, what is that sign pointing to or telling us? Jesus points to a greater love. He followed a living God. His Heavenly Father was very real to him. Jesus called God “Abba.” The Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t even dare speak the name of God in case they pronounced it wrong. But Jesus called Him Father.

Jesus points to a living God

Although Jesus studied the Torah, evidenced by his many quotes that reveal his knowledge of the Old Testament, he didn’t rely on theology as much as he relied on what God was showing him through many signs and revelations. Most importantly he had an understanding of God’s heart and that is what inspired and shaped him, and that is what he points to. Rev. Moon shared:

“History and the world will not be ruled by the experts of theology or philosophy, but by the experts of God’s heart. Jesus was the first to understand the heart of God in 4,000 years from Adam’s fall…It is lamentable that today, there are no saints who understand Jesus’ heart as deeply as Jesus understood God’s heart. Can you imagine how the heart of God has been, who has toiled for 6,000 years in wordless hardship?” – Sun Myung Moon

The miracle of Christmas is that God’s words, ideas, heart and intention were finally realized on earth. Jesus lived a life with God at the center, and his purpose was to teach us how to do the same.

Jesus points to a greater love

Jesus’ whole ministry challenged conventional norms. He didn’t start his ministry by just telling people to believe in him. He first built a personal foundation of faith that couldn’t be toppled. He You can read about it in Mathew 4:1-11. Jesus fasted in the Wilderness and Satan tempted him. That is where you will read the famous line: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out the mouth of God.” But Jesus was steadfast through three temptations. Jesus won an important spiritual victory.

We are all tested in our lives, but we have to remember God calls us to have a greater love. We have to defy our circumstances and surroundings and live by the “logic of love.” This “logic of love” is above the law. Jesus applied it when he came across a group of so-called respectable citizens who were about to stone an adulteress woman. Jesus called them out, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” One by one, her accusers left, and Jesus turned to her with compassion and said, “Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.”

Jesus was pointing to a greater love that revealed compassion, understanding and grace. There are so many stories in his three short years of ministry that reveal a greater love.

The birth of Jesus was a leap forward for humankind

We can find confidence in Christ’s legacy—and in all He has done in millions of lives over time. But we can also find assurance that there is much more to come—that God isn’t done with us yet! Let this Christmas season be a journey for you too, as you follow your own star; the star that God is personally showing you. The star that will lead you to the future that God wants to bless you with.

God hopes we will be thoughtful like the Magi and be attentive to the signs he sends. We need to look for how God is working in the world and be sensitive to His spirit. I was reminded of how God wants to speak to each of us personally when a friend told me of her experience after leaving a Christmas party at my house.

“When I was driving away from your house I felt an indescribable awareness of the presence of God in the moments we spend with each person. Every person who has affected my life in one way or another flashed before my eyes and I saw God in them, God loving me, God seeking relationship, God working miracles, God learning and growing too, even in the sadness and pain. I wondered why I should be so blessed to live at this moment, in this place and know these precious people who have never lived before and will never live again – each one a unique incarnation of God. From weirdness to beauty to crazy, silly and serious, in all their diversity every person is so amazing that it is overwhelming to me. I saw myself in tears of gratitude shaking hands with every person I’ve ever known, telling them how grateful I am to have lived my lifetime with them in it. And especially to have found Father and Mother Moon, and to have worked together with so many brothers and sisters who love them too. Why am I so blessed of all the people on earth today? So that I can bless others as well.”

“It was a very humbling drive home. Perhaps I would not have had that experience if I had not been at your party tonight.”

Follow your star and see where God leads you.

 

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2 Responses to “Follow Your Star to a Greater Love”

  1. Mark
    December 21, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

    I gave the sermon here last sunday and shared about the three wise men. Most people don’t realize that they came a year and a half after the birth. So, all the manger scenes with the kings in them are incorrect. The Bible indicates that they came into “the house” to see Jesus, not the barn. It is interesting that Joseph and Mary stayed in Bethlehem for another year and a half. Did Joseph find a job there? Also, after the wise men left, Joseph and Mary immediately fled for Egypt to avoid the plan of Herod to kill all the male children under the age of 2 in the Bethlehem area. Whatever happened to the wise men? You would think that they would have stayed in touch to find out who Jesus would turn out to be. Perhaps they died before he started his ministry…or maybe they didn’t have Facebook. : )

  2. Heather Thalheimer
    December 23, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for your insights. In the Bible it hints that the Wise Men visited later but the time factor is ambiguous. I was really interested in the details you described. As I prepared this message, I too thought – what if the Magi had supported Jesus throughout his life? Would that have made a difference to his ministry? Perhaps, he would have been more protected from various attacks if he had been supported by powerful benefactors. It’s amazing that the gospels survived as a record of Jesus’ life. I was reading the Case for Christ recently and that book discusses the reliability of the gospels. However, there is still so much we don’t know. Personally, I am really intrigued in what is between the lines, so to speak, in the Bible. That is one reason why I really appreciate Rev. Moon’s search to discover the heart of Jesus and the importance of Jesus’ mission. It’s all so interesting to me,
    Thanks for you comments – really appreciated your insights.
    Have a wonderful Christmas,
    Heather

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