Interestingly enough, outside the Biblical account of the star leading the wisemen, the Magi or the kings as they have been designated, to the toddler Jesus, there is not really any other accounting for the star of Christmas. In other words, unlike the Christmas Tree and Candles and Christmas Light which may have pagan or other roots and which have taken on much more secular meaning in our world today, the same cannot be said of the Christmas star. The star is what it is and certainly that is a good thing.
As for any secular meaning in the Star of Christmas today, certainly the star is considered a light of heaven. When we look up into the sky, at night, and perhaps away from the city and the city lights, we can see the star amongst a plethora of stars in the heavens. So again, secularly speaking, the star is a nice pretty sight at night and makes for a nice addition to the Christmas scene.
Unfortunately, for many the star is simply another Christmas decoration, like the creche, the candy cane, an angel, or the Santa and reindeer. For some the star makes for a nice tree topper, that or an angel. For others the star may be encapsulated in the lights that are often hung on one’s house. Again, secularly speaking, the star is simply a nice piece of Christmas decoration.
For some, the star continues to be the symbol of Christmas in that it was the guide for the wisemen. Of course, as we have discussed before, the wisemen did not show up at the barn or cave where Jesus was born and they did not present their gifts to the child while He was still in the manger. The star lead the wisemen so that they showed up to the house where the child was and this was probably about a year or a year and a half after the child was born.
To those who would deny Christmas and the miraculous star of Christmas, there are many explanations to explain away any divine phenomena. Of course, this explaining away is what the secularist, the agnostics and the atheists continue attempt to do and must do in order to deny God and their own accountability to God. Anyway, some have explained the star as a nova, or a comet. Some have explained the star as a convergence of planets. But the main point in explaining away the star is to deny God’s hand in creation, in Christmas, and in the miraculous appearance of a star to lead the Magi from the east to the baby Jesus. Interestingly enough, any attempt at any explanation is a subtle admission that a wondrous star did appear.
So, what is so special about the star today? Why do we continue to have the star as a symbol of Christmas when actually it is more a symbol of Epiphany? It is my hope that the star of Christmas brings to mind several important truths which we learn from God’s Word and which should permeate our Christian faith and lives.
First and foremost the star reminds us of creation. And let me remind you, God did not create the Sun, the moon and the stars until the fourth day of creation. Yes, on the first day the first thing God created was light, but we do not know what type of light that was that He created, only that it was light. On the fourth day of creation God created the Sun, moon and stars and placed them into His creation in order to mark time, days, weeks, months and years, time which He created for us as we read in Genesis, “14And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. 16And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:14-18). When we see the stars of heaven, certainly we are reminded that God created all things out of nothing.
Second, the star reminds us of Christ’s birth. As we read in Matthew’s Gospel, “9After 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. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:9-11). Very often we see the star placed over the manger or the stable reminding us that it was the star that led the wisemen, the first non-Jews, the first Gentiles to visit the baby Jesus, although as we have noted, their visit was not in the stable, but in the house where they were at this time.
And third, the star reminds us of Christ the light of the world. In his Gospel, John says, “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5). Although we live in a sin darkened world, although as sinners we like the darkness, because it hides our sins, or so we believe, Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness to expose our sin and the sin of the world, but not simply for the sake of exposing sin, but in order to bring confession and forgiveness for our sin and for the sin of the world, for the sin of all people of all places of all times.
As we have outlined this evening, the star is indeed a most fitting symbol of Christmas and the custom and tradition of using stars for decorations and referencing the star is highly appropriate. This evening as we begin our Christmas celebration we too look at the star and we are reminded of the words of our text, “18Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). 24When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:18-25). My prayer is that the star of Jesus, the star of Bethlehem, even all the stars in heaven might always remind you of God’s love for you and the sending of His Son for you. Even more, my prayer is that the star might remind you that Jesus is the Light of the world who draws all people to Himself so that He might give them the gifts He has to give, faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, and even at the last, robing us with His robes of righteousness. And finally, my prayer is that the star of Christmas might guide you so that you are strengthened and kept in faith, so that you are better prepared to give an answer for your faith in Jesus, and so that when your last hour is at hand or when the Lord returns you might be ready, with all the saints, to stand before the Lord’s throne and say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.