“O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light”
We Three Kings Of Orient Are
How is the star described?
Star of Wonder
Royal beauty bright
This star of wonder sounds pretty perfect doesn’t it? It is a royal star, a beautiful star, a star of wonder and also a star of perfection.
There is much deliberation about what the star actually was. Some believe it was a comet, others a supernova. Some think it was the conjunction of three planets (which is something that is known to have happened in this time period) and others believe it to be a miraculous occurrence. These theories are not just scientific versus religious either. Indeed many Christian scientists believe in the former ideas and why should they not? If God created the earth, moon and stars then I believe He could use His heavenly galactic creation to bring about this great Star of Wonder for the Magi to follow. For me, and this is just my personal opinion, it was a miraculous happening. The Magi were astronomers and I believe they would have known, or at least had a good idea about what this occurrence was and in Matthew 3 they say of the bright light in the sky:
“We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”
The other reason for me believing this to be a sign of Gods miraculous powers is that Matthew describes the star as literally stopping in the sky when it came to the place where Jesus lay:
“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“.
However, I would be more than happy for a scientist knowledgeable in the night skies of this time to explain their theories to me. I am not averse to having God open my eyes if I have been blinkered!
But my point today isn’t to talk semantics about what the star was or wasn’t. I have been dwelling on the words of this hymn and have just been so amazed by the power of this star and the journey it takes. When we think of the nativity story we tend to think about the donkey, the shepherd, the inn-all the physical earthly components. The angels are of course from heaven but the star is of the sky (“Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”Gen 1 v14) and by having this galactic element (as well as the earthly and the heavenly) it brings all the parts of Gods creation together in this story. I think this simply gives more heavenly authority to the story of Jesus’ birth as it is a reflection of the way in which God made the earth:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.
More than that though is the fact that God places such a clear, guiding light in the sky to lead the Magi to Jesus. And not just the Magi. If anyone else had decided that very night to follow the star it would have led them to the very same place as the Magi, to Jesus’ feet, because Jesus is for anyone who decides to seek Him. And of course it was not just the Magi that were led to Jesus’ feet that night but the shepherds to. I heard a few days ago something about the shepherds that I have never heard before-they were considered unclean because of the job they did and so were not allowed into the temple to worship God. They were outsiders set apart from their people, they did not have a place within their nation. How many people in our world today are treated as outsiders or outcasts and are kept from full acceptance in their society. It made my mind wonder to the Rohingya people who haven’t even been allowed citizenship in Myanmar because their native background is unacknowledged and so they have no rights of any kind. But its not just the Rohingya people that are treated like this. How often do you see someone sitting in the doorway of a shop on a highstreet and how often do you see someone go over to them and speak to them? Ask them their name or their story? Yet God chose to reveal himself to the shepherds, the lowest of the low, because God does not leave anyone out, He does not turn His back on anyone and He loves all. For God we all have the same rights, everyone is equal in the eyes of our Father.
But back to the star! The star was integral to the finding of Jesus and as I believe that Jesus can be found every day by anyone, then surely there must still be a star out there guiding us to Him? C.S Lewis said in his book Mere Christianity:
As long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you
You won’t find that star if you are looking down on the ground, in fact, if you are looking down at the ground you won’t find a whole lot of anything.
So what is this star that leads us to Jesus? I think God meets with every person differently because every person is different and I think He is gracious enough to meet us in a way that works for each of us. Have you ever stepped out and just starred up at a clear sky? Even though many us will know how to at least spot the Plough it still takes time to spot it; we have to keep looking, let our eyes adjust and find our bearings. So to see this Star of Wonder in our own lives I think we will need to look and keep looking. Don’t get disheartened if it isn’t instantaneous, get your bearings and let your eyes adjust and I promise it will be worth it because even if you don’t spot what you are looking for straight away, what a glorious sight it is to behold!
Maybe you will see your Star of Wonder in a Christmas carol, maybe you will see it in the love of your family and friends, maybe you will see it when you look at the sky above and wonder at the miracle of its creation. Or maybe you will find it in the need of someone else, someone less fortunate, someone hurting or broken. Someone you can reach out to and love. I pray for us all that tonight we can step out and look up at that beautiful night sky and wait for our eyes to adjust.