The Fourth Day
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. 19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. Genesis 1:14-19
The Star of Bethlehem
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things , he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem , in the land of Juda , art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel . 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem , and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him , bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Maryhis mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. Matthew 2:1-12
Around 50 years ago, one of the certain proofs of Jesus being a myth was the Star of Bethlehem. Nothing made the apostates smirk more than the thought of a new star leading the Wise Men to the baby in Bethlehem . They thought this miracle was too convenient to be genuine, so they dismissed it as being invented.
One of the interesting things about searching the topic on the Internet is how many sites are devoted to ending belief in the Star of Bethlehem. One site even complained:
Every Christmas planetariums across the country present a Star of Bethlehem show which breaks attendance records and balances their budget for the year. They are pandering to naive public fascination withthe question, and generally trot out a whole parade of scenarios about astronomical events which might have been the stimulus for the Biblical story.
The Naval Observatory lists a series of events which could have been associated with the Star of Bethlehem.
The Navy essay raises the possibility that the Wise Men began to travel toward Bethlehem when the first astronomical events started in 7 BC. Although no one can say absolutely which stellar event was the Star of Bethlehem, we now have the happy result of much research, no longer denying the Star but wondering which phenomenon was the Star.
Truly hip theologians do not want to discuss the historical nature of Biblical stories, but such considerations are essential. Christianity is a religion where God is always part of history and enters history in the Incarnation. All our dates in the Western world are based upon the birth of Christ and that Star. One person made the interesting observation that a calendar is very much anexpression of culture. There is a Jewish calendar with different dates and an Islamic calendar with another set of dates. Year zero means a lot for a culture.
Jesus, as the Creating Word, established the heavens and the earth. The eternal Son of God so arranged the vastness of space so that a series of unique events would herald His birth to the astronomers/astrologers of the East. While He was in his manger bed, the Wise Men were traveling toward Him, following His planets which were wandering in His constellations of stars. The contrast between the baby and the stars He created remind me of the great Gerhard hymn ( The Lutheran Hymnal 142):
O Love, how strong Thou art to save!
Thou beddest Him within the grave
Whose Word the mountains rendeth.
We like to think of the ancient peoples as primitive, without our great scientific knowledge, but recent discoveries have shown that the Greeks could predict the movement of the planets and display it with a geared device, centuries before Christ. Archimedes invented the odometer, and we did not rediscover it until modern times. DaVinci could not reproduce it.
The ancients knew all about the motion of planets (planet, Greek for wanderer) against the tapestry of the stars. The constellations rose and set every evening, always in the same relationship to each other. The bright planets wandered around the stars, giving the ancients much to consider since each star and constellation had meaning for them. The intellectuals of many empires would have been curious about the meaning of the Star of Bethlehem. That men traveled to see the new king is a testimony to the attraction of the Star.
The meaning of the Star is even more important than its historical nature. The Star announced theLight of the World, as Isaiah teaches (the epistle for the Day of Epiphany):
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. 2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. 3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. 4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. 5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. 6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD. Isaiah 60:1-6
As Luther wisely observes, the light is only meant to shine in darkness. If light already exists, there is no need for light. But when there is utter darkness,the light shines more brilliantly. The Gospel brings light to people because it conveys Christ and His benefits to those who receive Him in faith. The benefits are joy, unity, love, patience, and the peace that comes from being forgiven.
Note the contrast in Isaiah's lesson:
2 For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. 3 And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
There is only utter gross darkness on one side and light, glory, and brightness on the other. Just as the Bible knows only belief and unbelief, with no middle ground, so the Word of God only teaches light and darkness, with no intermediary light (of human reason).
The Bible is not revelation if man can already come to an understanding through his own reason. The natural man neither knows nor fears God.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them , because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
Those who try to make Christianity appealing to the scientific person, softening the edges of revelation, make a worse hash of matters than any pagan. The tendency in using reason the wrong way is to take away what seems foolish to the modern mind. The ancient mind was often superstitious, seeing many gods in various objects. The modern mind is secular, refusing to see God's power in the earthquake, wind, and tsunami. A video from the Weather Channel showed some young men caught in their car in a hailstorm where the hail was as big as baseballs, even larger. They ran for their lives and hid in a basement. The ancients would havereacted by sacrificing an animal or even a human. We explain weather fronts.
According to these self-appointed experts, Paul would have appealed to the ancients (using reason as an intermediary light) by agreeing with their superstitions. Today the same reasonable people would have the Apostle Paul demonstrate his abilities in sales. In both cases the true nature of God is pushed aside for what is popular for the moment. When Norman Vincent Peale was popular for reducing Christianity to success stories, one wit said, “I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling.”
Instead of accommodating himself to the spirit of the times, Paul relied on God's Word to convert his listeners. He did not seek a compromise with man's wisdom but trusted instead in the folly of God's wisdom to make foolish the wisdom of the wise. There can only be truth and falsehood, light and darkness, faith and unbelief.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness , and let us put on the armour of light. Romans 13:12
How Lovely Shines the Morning Star
How lovely shines the Morning Star!
The nations see and hail afar
The light in Judah shining.
Thou David's Son of Jacob's race,
My Bridegroom and my King of Grace,
For Thee my heart is pining.
Lowly, holy, great and glorious,
Thou victorious Prince of graces,
Filling all the heav'nly places.
O highest joy by mortals won,
True Son of God and Mary's Son,
Thou highborn King of ages!
Thou art my heart's most beauteous Flower,
And Thy blest Gospel's saving power
My raptured soul engages.
Thou mine, I Thine; sing hosanna!
Heav'nly manna tasting, eating,
Whilst Thy love in songs repeating.
Now richly to my waiting heart,
O Thou, my God, deign to impart
The grace of love undying.
In Thy blest body let me be,
E'en as the branch is in the tree,
Thy life my life supplying.
Sighing, crying, for the savor
Of Thy favor; resting never
Till I rest in Thee forever.
Lift up the voice and strike the string,
Let all glad sounds of music ring
In God's high praises blended.
Christ will be with me all the way,
Today, tomorrow, every day,
Till traveling days be ended.
Sing out, ring out, triumph glorious,
O victorious, chosen nation;
Praise the God of your salvation.
Oh, joy to know that Thou, my Friend,
Art Lord, Beginning without end,
The First and Last, eternal!
And Thou at length—O glorious grace!—
Wilt take me to that holy place,
The home of joys supernal.
Amen, Amen! Come and meet me!
Quickly greet me! With deep yearning
Lord, I look for Thy returning.
( The Lutheran Hymnal , #343)