2020: Hope in a star

This blog post was first published in December 2016, and I’ve decided to revisit it in 2020 – truly a year like no other in living memory!

It can be very easy to lose hope. So many of us here in Scotland, and all across the UK, are reeling from announcements of yet another lockdown due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, and in many cases this has spoiled our plans for spending a Christmas with our family.

Yet there are things which can give us some hope, with the biggest of all being that the rollout of a vaccine. This gives us some light at the end of the tunnel. It gives us hope that in 2021 our lives can start to return to some sort of normality.

Follow the star

In the very first page of the Bible, all we are told about the stars is that God made the stars also (Gen 1.16), as the King James version puts it. Quite possibly the biggest understatement of all time!

To the naked eye on a clear night, away from light pollution, you may be lucky enough to see several thousand stars, but in our galaxy alone there are estimated to be 100 thousand million stars. It’s such a huge number that our brains really can’t comprehend it at all.

Yet despite the understated way that their creation is portrayed to us, it’s clear that they have a huge significance in God’s word.

We’re told that wise men (or Magi) from the East followed a star which led them to the infant Jesus. Clearly to them this star was something very special and they followed it expecting a King.

…after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2 v 1-2

Despite December 2020’s news headlines being dominated by Covid, there is a once-in-a-lifetime event happening in the skies above us, the conjunction of 2 planets, Jupiter and Saturn, which look so close together from the perspective of us here on Earth that they look like a very bright star.

This event tends to only happen every few hundred years, and in fact it can be argued that this event may well have been the star that the wise men saw and followed.

Whether that is true or not, for me, the wonder of the night sky points to a God that created the immense complexity of the universe, and yet cares deeply about us humans living on this planet.

What were they looking for?

We don’t know for sure why the wise men were so intent on wanting to follow the star. There are suggestions that they were influenced by the prophecies of Daniel, who became famous in both the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires whilst the Jews were in captivity there several hundred years earlier.

Another prophecy though that definitely pointed forward several hundred years to this event came from Isaiah.

…nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising…all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.

Isaiah 60 v 3 & 6

The light of this bright star would have been talked about by everyone, but it was nothing compared to the metaphorical light of the young boy Jesus, who had just been born. He was to be the king of the Jews, yet he himself during his ministry said:

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

John 12 v 46

Jesus – the light of the world

When he was just 8 days old, Jesus was taken to the temple by Mary & Joseph, and there he was brought before a man called Simeon, who recalling the words of Isaiah 49, held him in his arms and said:

…for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.

Luke 2 v 30-32

It is appropriate that Christmas (in the Northern Hemisphere at least) takes place in the middle of winter, when it feels so dark.

It is only in the light of Jesus Christ that God’s plan and purpose and the promise of salvation have been revealed to a world which is currently in the darkness of suffering.

He was a man who fulfilled the will of God – he died, but he rose again. More than that, we’re promised that he will come back to earth, not as a bright star at night, but as a shining sun on a glorious new morning.

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