Something extraordinary happened on Dec 21. The Great Conjunction of 2020. Did you see it? What in the world am I talking about?
On Dec. 21, Saturn and Jupiter were aligned with earth within 0.1 degrees of separation. To the naked eye they appeared as one very bright star. This has renewed interest in the theory of the Star of Bethlehem. Was there really a star in the East that led the magi to Bethlehem?
Jupiter is known as the King Planet, and is one of the brightest lights in the sky. Sometime in 2 BC, Jupiter aligned with Venus in conjunction and appeared as a bright point of light. There has not been a close conjunction of these two planets since then.
An Astronomer, Craig Chester, suggested in 1992 that the ancient astrologers would have viewed the close conjunction of Jupiter and Venus as indicating a coming new king of Israel, and Herod would have taken them seriously.
I find that fascinating! Whether any of this is true or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we are learning more and more about the birth of the savior of the world.
The town of Bethlehem has a church called the Church of the Nativity. Laurie and I visited that church, and were able to touch a large flat stone where Jesus was laid as an infant. Bethlehem, translated to English is House of Bread. Later, St. John would called Jesus the Bread of Life.
Bethlehem is known as the City of David. It was here in his home town that David was anointed by Samuel as King over Israel. (1 Sam 16)
In the Gospel according to St Luke we heard this passage:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirin′i-us was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Joseph was the head of the household, having taken Mary as his wife, even while she was pregnant with Jesus. Luke is alluding to the Kingship of Jesus, the King of Kings.
The story continues…
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. 7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Our Manger Scene or Creche has the baby Jesus lying in a manger, which is a feeding trough full of hay. Why a feeding trough, you might ask?
In John 6:35, we read, “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Another reason he was laid in a manger is related to his humility.
Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
The image of the feeding trough is an enduring one in our depiction of Christmas. We have a little porcelain one in the corner of the church.
So why was the incarnation, the Word made flesh, necessary? I once saw a message on a bill board that said, “Don’t make me come down there – God”
St. Paul wrote to the Galations about this, chapter 4:
1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate;
2 but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father.
3 So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe.
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
This is important:
6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
7 So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.
Did you get it? God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba! Father!
The Father has sent his Son into the world, so that the Spirit of Christ will live in our hearts.
And it’s just in time. St. John wrote this about Jesus: “Through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4,5
This time of year, when all the trees are bare and the days grow darker, we welcome any light we can get. Drive around our town and you will see people’s houses decorated with lots of lights, and maybe blowup snowmen, Snoopy on his house, and lots of silly stuff.
Why do we do it? We are trying to bring some light into the darkness. It’s a feeble attempt, to be sure, but it does serve to remind us that we need light. Light shines in the darkness to show us not only where we are, but where we want to go. I want to go to the Light that is my Lord Jesus.
Let the heavens and the earth rejoice for today our Savior is born. Amen.