The Star Of Bethlehem

In the previous post we discussed the Magi and their two-year journey to find the newborn king.  According to the Magi, they were guided by this newborn King’s star which appeared to them in the East.  They followed it for five thousand miles.

What was the Star of Bethlehem?  Was it an actual star, comet, planetary conjunction, optical illusion, aliens, etc?

In the Book of Exodus when Moses, the exiled Prince of Egypt, led the Hebrews out of the land of bondage and crossed the desert, there is an account of a mysterious light which guided them by day as a pillar of cloud and by night as a pillar of fire in the desert skies.  This was a protection from the harsh sun during the day and provided a source of warmth and direction at night.

Many commentaries believe this phenomenon was the Shechinah (שכינה), the divine presence of the Deity with all of its enshrined glory.  There are those Christians who ascribe to the belief that this was the preincarnate Christ based on a reference in I Corinthians.  Jewish scholars believe it was the Archangel Michael, the guardian of the Hebrew nation.

The Pillar Of Fire

The Shechinah was closely associated with the Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon. Moses first encountered this divine glory at the burning bush which would launch the eighty-year-old on a rescue mission against the most powerful nation on earth. Later after he returned from the top of Mount Sinai with the Decalogue, his face shone with this radiance which the Hebrews could not bear to look upon.

Ezekiel's Vision

Angels are directly associated with the Shechinah. In Ezekiel’s visions of the wheels and diverse beings the divine presence is interlaced throughout this strange account.  Isaiah beheld the throne room in the heavenly temple surrounded by angels with all of its resplendent glory.

Angels play a definite role in the birth of the Christ-child.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, is told by Gabriel in the Jerusalem Temple that Elizabeth, his wife, would bear a son. Six months later Gabriel visits a young teenager named Mary to tell her that she had been chosen to give birth to the Messiah; the hillside shepherds are serenaded by a choir of angels; and Joseph and the Magi have dreams given by angels.

To me it seems reasonable to assume that this “star” which appeared in the East to guide the Magi was this Shechinah glory attended by angels.  The promises of the Second Advent in the New Testament would foreshadow the return of this Shechinah cloud to this planet traversing the cosmos.

Of course you are free to believe what you will about this mysterious star two thousand years ago.  From my understanding of cosmology heavenly objects do not guide seers to a house holding a two-year-old toddler.  The objects in the night sky tell a wondrous story of creation when the morning stars sang and the cosmic orchestra formed in the cosmic ocean.

However, physical objects in infinite space do not affect the affairs of men and women.  Your daily chart may offer some source of guidance and comfort but the actual stars of the cosmos have no effect on daily events on planet earth.

A Galaxy Far Far Away

Closing, let’s revisit those famous words written so long ago:

And as the starry messengers over the hills of Bethlehem two thousand years ago stated:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” Like 2:14 KJV

My hope for you is that you will keep Christmas well.


G. D. Williams       © 2011