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Wondering About the Star
December 16, 2017

Dear Sam;

I have always had a fascination with astronomy. And so, I am curious about what the Christmas star could have been. A comet, maybe? An exploding star?

Wondering about the star.


Dear Star of Wonder;

You are not alone in this wondering. The Star of Bethlehem has intrigued astronomers, theologians and Christian believers for centuries. And me. But I don’t know much, so I consulted an astronomer friend who has read probably everything about this.

Many theories have been put forth to explain this mysterious phenomenon.  Now that we have the technology to see the stars in any point in history from any point on our planet, we can travel back in time to see what it could have been. For this we would have to know the exact date. But…..

Don’t you hate “buts”?

We can only estimate the time of Jesus’ birth. Luke 2:1- 2 tells us, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.” This places Jesus’ birth to be some time between 6 – 2 BC.

Theories suggest it could have been: a comet, or a supernova (exploding star), or a conjunction of visible planets. A conjunction refers to a coming close together in the same small area of sky.

Matthew 2 tells us that the Magi, learned wise men of the day, traveled a far distance to worship and offer gifts to the baby, born to be King of the Jews.

One often overlooked fact concerning the Magi's visit is that they did not make an appearance at the manger, the night of Jesus’ birth, as the shepherds did. (Luke 2) By the time the wise men came on the scene Mary, Joseph and Jesus were staying in a house. (Matthew 2:11)

Another often overlooked fact has to do with the time it may have taken for the Magi to arrive. Herod killed all the children two years and younger based upon what the Magi told him as to when the star first appeared. So their arrival could have been anywhere from a few days up to two years. To me, logic would say that they arrived close to the day of His birth. But that is a question for another time.

One final consideration has to do with the fact that only the Magi seem to have been aware of the star. Neither Herod, nor his advisers, nor it would seem any of the people of Jerusalem and surrounding area saw anything unusual. Herod and the people seemed to have been completely surprised by the arrival of the Magi and their suggestion that something in the sky compelled them to travel hundreds of kilometers.

We can quickly dismiss the comet theory, as such an object would be readily visible to everyone. A comet would probably have struck terror in the hearts of the people. Comets were then considered to be an evil omen of calamity.

We can also eliminate the supernova theory, since it too would have been readily seen by everyone. Certain ancient civilizations such as the Chinese, kept records of all such events for a few thousand years, and nothing shows up of such a nature in their records anywhere near the time of Jesus birth.

The best explanation would seem to be a conjunction of bright planets, including Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Venus. The word planet means wanderer, because these points of lights did not keep the same predictable paths as stars. In those days Astrology (the fanciful speculation that sky events somehow affect earthly ones - completely discounted by scientists today) was in a sense the science of that day. Such an event in which the planets would come together in very close proximity in the sky was considered a powerful sign of something utterly significant happening on earth. Such a conjunction would have captured the attention of the Magi and did in fact occur during the window of time of Jesus' birth. The other factor which strongly favours the conjunction theory is that the Magi were very skilled, not only at watching the skies but at charting the movements of planets through the heavens, from day to day, month to month, year to year. The wise men would have considered these wanderers coming close to each other to be a “star of wonder”.

If you are interested in a very compelling explanation of this very real possibility, I refer you to the following website:

Job 9: 9 “God made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades”.


(Photo taken by Doug Kranz of Orion with Jupiter and Mars.)

Whatever the Bethlehem star may have been, it was indeed by the miraculous design of our awesome Creator God, that not only caught the attention of the Magi and drew them to the Christ Child more than two thousand years ago, but continues to awe and inspire centuries of people to wonder and be drawn to the babe of Bethlehem right up to the present day.

Matthew 2:10, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”

May you, too, be filled with exceedingly great joy, not about a star but about what the star points to: Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.



INSIDE THE ISSUE is authorized through Resurrection Lutheran Church, 250 Quarry Rd., Pembroke, K8B 1A6. Questions and comments invited at:


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