Follow the Star
Merry Christmas from our home to yours! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year, especially this year. Relax and put your feet up for a minute, and remember the goodness of God...
You might not have heard that adding to the drama and mystery of 2020 is the fact that on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn are going to come within .1 degree of each other, creating an exceptionally bright glow in the night sky. This is the first time this phenomenon will be visible to the naked eye in 800 years, and scientists call it the Bethlehem Star. It may or may not be the same thing that happened so long ago in Bethlehem, but it is still amazing.
This extraordinary glimpse into the vastness and orderliness of the universe is timely. How great God is to create such wondrous things as solar systems, and planets that appear to converge every 800 years or so without colliding - how powerful and brilliant and thoughtful He must be! Much moreso than we understand.
One of my favorite books explores this line of thinking, and that is The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton. In it, Chesterton invites the reader to zoom out from the here-and-now to take a broad look at the relationship between God and mankind for all of human history. From the very beginning, our art and later our writing proves that religion has always been a central part of the human experience. Since the beginning, religion has been comprised of many ways different peoples had of viewing and explaining the human experience as well as the supernatural. Why is there evil and selfishness in the world? Why does it hurt so much to love and be forsaken? How do you explain all of the things we experience in life - disease, war, pain, love, family, hope?
Think of all of the religions that have existed. Of course, there was one tiny group of people who always claimed to know and worship the One True God, but they were so small and insignificant on the stage of world history that most cultures did not even notice them. There have been so many other attempts to make things make sense: the mysterious eastern religions seeking to purge mankind of selfishness and desire, the myriad mythologies that emerged in different corners of Europe (Chesterton calls them "imaginative paganism") which sought to explain the actions and existence of humankind, and the vast dark religions across the globe that involved human sacrifice to appease some vengeful spirit. Every culture has tried to understand and explain both the human experience and the supernatural, and every culture has had the innate need to express this through some form of religion - as though, Chesterton points out in his inimitable way, men and women were designed for worship.
GKC draws attention to the first climax in world history, which occured a little over 2000 years ago. Back then, Carthage (modern day Tunisia) was the seat of the mighty Phoenecian empire, abounding in wealth and power. Everyone feared them, and many paid tribute to them - still, the empire had an insatiable desire for power and kept forecfully taking more. It was arguably the most highly civilized cutlure of its day, and its vast wealth enabled much luxury and innovation.
However, all of this came with a steep price. The god of Carthage was Molech, and his preferred form of worship was receiving human sacrifice. Imagine everyone today - doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers - putting on their Sunday best to go throw their children into the fire. The raw power and prestige of Carthage came on the back of great evil, and the whole world knew it.
Meanwhile, a ragtag group of rural people saw this evil for what it was and dared to face it. These were country people - not sophisticated like the Carthaginians - and their system of worship was an elaborate polytheism, driven by the basic hope for good crops and fertility of every kind. There is no way in the world this backwoods bunch should have been able to band together to defeat Carthage and their genius general Hannibal, but they did.
History testifies that mighty Carthage fell, and the wicked and perverted worship of Molech with it. The brave bunch who dared to face evil became Rome, which soon rose into its glorious ivory towers. Most historians would agree that the Roman Empire was the finest effort of mankind to make sense of the muddle of the human condition - a great attempt to bring peace and justice and unity. Yet this finest human effort immediately began to decay from within. The best that mankind can do still proves rotten at the core.
It was at this moment in history that the time had come for God Himself to say, “Now let me show you what I can do."
So in a tiny town at the back corner of this vast Roman Empire, a very young woman gave birth to a precious baby boy. There was not even room for the little family in the town inn, so the baby was born in a rude stable, surrounded by animals.
The coming of the greatest King the world will ever see was nothing like any of us would have imagined. His Kingdom is entirely different from anything we could attempt to create. That beautiful baby was born, not to set up a yet another fleeting earthly kingdom or system of worship, but to one day be the true and sufficient sacrifice to finally remedy the terrible problem of sin. Injustice and selfishness can never be settled by human efforts or systems; Jesus alone brings hope, healing, and salvation to this broken world.
When Emmanuel (which means God With Us) was born, angels lit up the sky and notified the shepherds nearby to come worship the newborn King. A bright shining star in the sky beckoned wise men from far away to come seek this new King, who would bring hope and salvation. With the coming of this King, the deep human need to worship could finally be fulfilled.
This Christmas, take a moment to look up for the Bethlehem Star. Watch for this once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into the heavens and remember that a second climax to human history is coming. The same Bible that so faithfully and accurately foretold the first coming of the Son of God also tells of His second coming, at the end of all things. The same God who painstakingly arranged the movement of the vast planets of our solar system to shine the wonderful news of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is still moving and arranging all things towards the day when all that is wrong will finally be made right.
May the love and peace of Jesus fill your heart and home this Christmas. Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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