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Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard

“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” (Matthew 2:9).

What exactly was the “star” the Wise Men saw in the east?

Frankly, we don’t know. The particular Greek word is a very general one that could refer to any bright object in the sky. It could refer to a star or a planet or a meteor or even to a comet. It could refer to some unusual conjunction of the planets that produced an extremely bright object in the skies. Or it may be that the “star” was a special heavenly light prepared by God to guide the Magi. Evidently this “star” appeared in the east to alert the Magi to begin their journey. It disappeared and then reappeared after they left Herod to journey to Bethlehem.

Somehow they knew it was “his” star and they were overjoyed when they saw it (Matthew 2:10). It led them to the very home where Mary and Joseph were taking care of the baby. That doesn’t sound like a comet or a meteor to me. It sounds more like a special light from God sent to direct the Magi to Jesus.

They followed it until it came to rest over the place where the child was. The word “until” means that the guidance was very precise. The star was a kind of divine GPS that led them all the way from Persia in the east to Jerusalem in the west and from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and then to the precise house where Jesus was staying with Mary and Joseph.

Some missionary friends serving in Nigeria sent out an email with their reflections on the “Star of Bethlehem”:

At this season of the year, we are aware of legendary stargazers who were also amazed. Their focus was a single star—a star hidden among many others, but so different. A star that would lead them to the Light of the World. As we have moved through this Advent season, our family devotion time considered some of the scientific explanations behind the star the Magi sighted and pursued. Whatever the explanation, the Magi themselves faced a decision: Were they going to pursue the star? At what cost and for how long? Were they going to move out of their comfort zone in order to search for something small yet priceless?

We are struck this holiday season by the awareness that all of us face the same decision. Will we pursue Jesus? Will we recognize the amazing signs God places around us that point to the reality of the God-Man, Jesus Christ? Will we journey to get to know him?

Let us lay aside our cares and follow the Wise Men on their journey to Bethlehem. A baby lies there who is the Light of the World. The King in the cradle. Immanuel. God with us. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus, Savior, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Lord Jesus, may we be like the Wise Men who were guided to you by a star. Give us wisdom to seek you and light to find you. Amen.

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Originally published December 21, 2013.

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