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12-18-20 FUMC Devotional … the Bethlehem Star

Christmas is only 1 week away and it will be good to return to in-person worship this Sunday, 12/20, and, of course, on Christmas Eve!  With all the difficult news we’re hearing, I was so excited when I heard about this unusual cosmic occurrence happening on Monday night … if you’d rather watch the devotional, CLICK HERE to watch on YouTube or CLICK HERE for Facebook.

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The planets Jupiter and Saturn are projected to align so closely (cosmically speaking) on December 21 that they will appear to the naked eye as one bright star. This news has caused some people to consider whether the Bethlehem Star, seen and followed by the Magi, might have been something similar! This event in the sky TONIGHT gives us a chance to think about the meaning of the star in the birth narrative of Jesus, and of how God calls us to Him.

Patrick Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University said “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.”

“Exceptionally rare” is an understatement … the last time this happened was in 1623, and before that in 1226, and neither of those was in December. This near alignment won’t occur again, astronomers say, until March of 2080!  

And here’s the good news – to see the alignment of the two planets, you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night …  NASA says to look for them low in the southwest in the hour after sunset!!

I wonder if God used this unique alignment of planets to lead the Magi to the baby Jesus? Many Bible readers and others have long speculated that such might be the case. Modern astronomers have suggested all sorts of explanations for the event, but attempts to attribute the Bethlehem Star to a natural occurrence, cannot explain the behavior of the star described in Matthew 2 …

The Gospel tells us THAT star remained stationary while the wise men were in Jerusalem then led them not only to Bethlehem but to the precise location of Jesus, where it “stopped over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9).  Matthew is clearly describing a miraculous phenomenon directed behind the scenes by God, and as difficult as 2020 has been, whether December 21st will be a miracle or merely astrophysics, it DOES shed light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

Regardless of whether the Bethlehem Star was a natural occurrence or a miraculous intervention of God into the workings of the cosmos, the effect of the star on the Magi was of God beckoning, calling to them!! They dropped everything and left to find the Christ Child!

The star is also a reminder that many of us began our journey toward God because, in some way, God wooed us, drew us toward him through means that we did not immediately recognize as spiritual or divine.

While God does not force us toward him, He will NEVER stop offering us subtle invitations, droplets of grace, to look for him.

This is the grace of God that comes to us before we even go looking for it – it’s His tap on our shoulder when our attention is focused on anything but him, but which becomes the beginning of our deliverance! 

I love how the translation from Isaiah 65 in the MESSAGE shares God word to us:
“I’ve made myself available to those who haven’t bothered to ask. I’m here, ready to be found by those who haven’t bothered to look. I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’ to a nation that ignored me. I reached out day after day to a people who turned their backs on me, People who make wrong turns, who insist on doing things their own way. Isaiah 65:1-2

This verse is not suggesting that God waits passively for us to discover him, but rather that God opens the paths that run toward him BEFORE we start looking for him. This grace is the beginning of bringing us from spiritual blindness to a full relationship with Jesus Christ … we just have to make the slightest move toward him!! 

And guess what, our “great alignment” occurs when we are aligned with the call and will of God!!

What we will see on December 21st isn’t the Christmas Star but that doesn’t matter! What matters is if our eyes are open to the wonder and wondering of God! What matters is that we’re looking at the universe and remembering that as John 1, verse 5 tells us … the light that shines in the darkness IS the Light of the Messiah!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Pastor Debbie


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