There are always ‘things’ that happen that defy human reason and logic. Everything that happens in this world doesn’t always have a logical explanation, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or that somehow we have to demythologize the event so that we won’t look silly trying to explain.
In the Old Testament, there are several events that seem to defy human logic or explanation. For instance, the talking serpent (Gen 3); that people lived for more than nine-hundred years (Gen 5 – can we really understand that in light of what we see in our own bodies today?); The flood (Gen 6); the plagues in Egypt (Exo 7ff); the parting of the Red Sea (Exo 14); the daily manna from heaven and the supply of quail (Exo 16); the talking donkey (Numbers 22); that the Sun stood still for a day (Jug 10:13); the tumbling walls of Jericho (Josh 6); Jonah in the belly of a big fish (Jonah), and so on.
In the New Testament, it continues. The virgin birth, the conception by the Holy Spirit; the angel’s visits (Mat 1), the miracles of Jesus (Gospels) and the disciples (Acts); the Damascus Road experience (Acts 9); the release of Paul and Silas after a great earthquake (Act 16) and so on.
At this time of year, one of the events around Jesus’ birth that always seems to raise considerable interest and baffles our curiosity is this ‘star’ that the Magi followed from the East to Jerusalem (Mat 2:2). It raises all sorts of questions. The text doesn’t tell us that it led them as the pillar of cloud led the OT people in the wilderness. The ‘star’ didn’t just bring them to Jerusalem, it also brought them the 7.1 kilometres to Bethlehem from Jerusalem (v9). And then this ‘star’ rests over where the baby Jesus was lying (v10).
How do we explain this phenomenon that seems to defy human reason and logic? The answer is quite simple really – we cannot, for we don’t really know how it happened. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but we finite, limited, mortal human beings don’t know how God performed this miracle. We just accept that he did, for Scripture records that it happened.
In the past, people have tried to explain this miraculous event by suggesting that it was a ‘shooting star’; or the planets were all lined up and this caused a star to be brighter than all the rest for a short time; or an eclipse, or as some suggest, it is just a fable and didn’t really happen. Well, it did happen for the Bible says it did, period.
There is a real danger in spending too much time trying to find logical explanations for everything that occurs in Scripture, especially these miraculous events. Furthermore, it has the negative impact of robbing us of the joy of the gospel and the great event these miracles are pointing to, namely Jesus Christ and the wonderful salvation we have in Him.
It seems that the story of the ‘star’ has primarily one purpose, to bring people from a foreign land (Gentiles if you will), to worship the One and Only True King. And the One who is causing this star to move and guide these Gentiles is none other than God Himself. Surely, it is not beyond the power of the One who created all things, including the stars above, to move this little star to do His bidding!
So this Christmas, don’t get too hung up about the ‘star’. Rather, let us do as the Magi did, bow down and worship the King who came as a babe, lived amongst us for thirty odd years and then gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our forgiveness and salvation, which by the way, is perhaps the greatest miracle of all.
Oh, one more thing. Nothing much has changed since the day the Magi were directed by the ‘star’ to the new King to worship. I would suggest that is still God’s will for the nations to come, worship and acknowledge Jesus as King, which is also how Matthew’s gospel finishes. However, instead of using ‘stars’, God in His wisdom uses us to bring the good news to the nations and with His blessing lead them to the King. It’s quite apparent, our work is not yet done! JZ