Today on the winter solstice, the headlines read, “Christmas star is coming …” Jupiter and Saturn will be aligned such that it appears as one big star which has been called the “Christmas star.”  

This year has been a year unlike any other in recent memory and it will conclude with the return of a celestial event not seen for almost 800 years.

The two largest planets in the solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will do something later this month not seen since the Middle Ages: forming what looks like a double planet. This celestial event has been dubbed the “Christmas star.”

The rare occurrence will happen after sunset on Dec. 21, 2020, the start of the winter solstice.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” said Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan in a statement. “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.” Read the Fox News article

Matthew records that it was a star that guided the wise men’s travels from the east:

Now 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.” Matt. 2:1-2

Not much else is known about the mysterious star other than it was given as a sign and used to navigate the wise men directly to the place of the new born King:

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. Matt. 2:9

Concerning the date of Christ’s birth, we have 3 main historical events with which to try align the Biblical record, the census given by Cesar Augustus, the death of Herod, and the infamous Bethlehem star.

Using the census of Luke 2 to pinpoint a date is problematic because the extra-biblical sources don’t document a census around 5 B.C.E plus the fact that Quirinius became governor of Syria in 6 C.E (or A.D.) The death of Herod the Great has better documentation mainly because of Josephus’ record of the lunar eclipse that happened after Herod killed two Jewish rabbis; therefore, there is a greater certainty surrounding his death which is thought to be around 4 B.C.E.

Pinpointing a date for Christmas using the stars is much more hopeful! Although theories of the Bethlehem star abound, the conjunction one is the most interesting and plausible in my opinion. A conjunction in star terms is when two objects are close enough to appear as one. The most notable conjunction theory, and the one in today’s headline, involves Jupiter and Saturn which again, occurs every 800 years.  

I don’t rule out some special heavenly light for this miraculous occasion, but I do think it interesting that God could have used a rare occurrence in the heavenlies, which he created and aligned, to point to the birth of the Saviour of all mankind. After all, the star was used as a reference for the magi, or some call them astrologers, from the east. Many suppose that these wise men came from Babylon which is the birthplace of zodiacal signs.  Any new star or conjunction would not have gone unnoticed by these star gazers. There is also the fact that Babylonians would have been likely familiar with the prophecies of the Jewish Messiah since they held the Jews in captivity for 70 years. We know from the account of Daniel, that the Jewish noble men were no strangers to the king’s court. I am sure that their mighty acts of faith made quite an impact and a lasting impression on Babylonian history.

In the astrological records, a triple conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and Pisces did occur in 7 B.C.E. Jupiter was associated with the Jews and royalty in astrology, and Saturn had to do with Mesopotamia. For the two planet to have been in such close proximity three times in one year, would have been of particular note to astrologers. The triple occurrence of this particular conjunction more closely aligns with the biblical account than any of the others during that timeframe. The first appearance on the night sky occurred in late May of 7 B.C.E possibly when the wise men started their journey to Judea. The second occurrence happened in late September around the time of magi’s arrival to inquire of King Herod, and then the third occurrence happened in the southern sky (towards Bethlehem) in early December of the same year. It does not appear that the wise men had a two month visit with old wicked Herod, but it is possible that there was some delay before they got back in sync with their guiding star.   

Or a simpler, and maybe more believable, theory, could have been a new star or some other type of never before seen occurrence. The wise men may have been more versed on the ancient Jewish prophecies than we give them credit. Numbers 24:17 foretold that “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” After all, they seemed more knowledgeable and expectant of a new born king in Israel than did Herod and all the chief priests and scribes of the day. For without the visit and inquiry of the magi, from all accounts, the birth of Jesus would have slipped right past the religious leaders (who were supposed to be in the know).

As the saying goes, “wise men still seek.” Have you discovered the birth place of Christ? Has this new birth, as only he can give, taken place inside of you? Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And again, “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, 5) John explains the new birth this way, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God (John 1:12).” May the blessing and peace of Christmas be yours today! Ask Jesus Christ to come into your heart and be your Lord and Saviour, and when you do, the good news is that the joy and peace of Christmas will not come and go with the season, but it will be yours every day and forever!