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Follow the Star

Follow the Star

The Star of Bethlehem is perhaps one of the best known symbols of Christmas.

So what exactly was it?

Was it a star? or something much more intriguing and mysterious.

Professor David Hughes from the University of Sheffield first published a review of this special star in the 1970’s. He reflected that:

  • the Magi were revered astronomers and astrologers who studied the stars and tried to work out the meanings behind cosmic events. Their job was to  interpret them and then report the cosmic event to the King.
  • Some Babylonian star watchers also created nativity charts, to make predictions about a child’s life. These eventually became the horoscopes that we are familiar with today. The Magi from the East may have been astrologers from Mesopotamia.
  • The ‘star’ was  unusual  and therefore it was an omen of an important happening.
  • The magi had  seen the star from their own country, and then again when they had spoken to Herod.

Professor Hughes thinks that it is possible that the ‘star’ was a rare planetary conjunction between the sun, the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn.(which occurs only once every 900 years)  Once all these planets are all lined up they appear  very bright in the sky, and  they would also have appeared to change direction.

Another possibility is that the star may possibly have been a comet. Comets are big mucky snowballs hurtling through outer space and leaving a trail of vapour in its wake.   A comet was recorded in 5BC which is near the time that Jesus was born (Herod the Great died in 4BC so Jesus can’t have been born any later than that) . However, comets usually signified something pretty grim in those days which certainly was not what the Magi thought that they would find in Jerusalem..

Another theory is that the star was light from a new star (a nova) which would have been very bright. records say that there was a new star seen in the constellation of Aquila in 4BC, again around the time of Jesus birth.

The truth is, we will never know which, if any of these possibilities, best describes the physical reality of the Star of Bethlehem.  And the stars real importance lies in what it tells us about Jesus and what was to happen to him in the rest of his life.

The star is also  a message to us all, that everyone is invited to follow in the Way – the name the early Christians gave to following the teachings of Jesus. No one is excluded. The Way of Love is for everyone.

Wherever you are this Christmas you are invited to follow the star…God’s love for us is a gift, of joy, love and new life. And you will be welcome to celebrate this at St Clements Church.

‘Come, just as you are’

Author: Christine Bailey

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