On Sunday night, during our Advent celebration, we were celebrating the fact that Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12) who has come to rescue us from darkness and bring us into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). We sang the old hymn’We Three Kings of Orient Are,’ which tells the story of the Wise Men, or Magi, who came and brought gifts to Jesus. The chorus of the song describes how they found Him:
“O, Star of wonder, star of light
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.”
According to Matthew 2:1-12, the Magi from the east followed a star to Jerusalem looking for the King of the Jews. When they asked Herod about this King, they said: “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (v. 2). When Herod told them to go to Bethlehem due to Michah’s prophecy, they continued to follow the star “until it came to rest over the place where the child was.” What do we know about this star?
Truth is, I know very little. We sing songs about it, we put stars in our nativities and on top of our Christmas trees, and we read this story every year about the Wise Men being guided to Bethlehem by its light. I have watched movies about Jesus’ birth that often give some sort of explanation and maybe even sat through a History Channel special about it (that normally treats Matthew’s account like fiction). But to be honest, I have never given that much thought to the star of Bethlehem.
Apparently, that was true for Colin Nicholl until around seven years ago. He too watched a special about the star and was promoted to go back and actually take a hard look at Matthew 2. From there, he began a serious study about trying to discover as much as he could about the star. Based on Matthew’s description, he concluded that the star was a comet and from there began to study the scientific side of the mystery. His results have recently been published by Crossways in a book called “The Great Christ Comet” (which was given to me by a couple in our Church immediately after our service on Sunday night, who noted God’s providence over the situation!) Nicholl states his goal in writing the book:
“In this book I offer what I am convinced is the solution to the age-old mystery of the Star of Bethlehem. What I propose is rooted in a careful consideration of the relevant Biblical material and is, I believe, able to explain everything said about the Star in a natural and compelling way and in harmony with astronomical knowledge.”
His contention is that science has ignored theology and theology has ignored science when it comes to understanding the Star of Bethlehem. Thus, his goal was to try to bring together both disciplines and to be as faithful to both the text and science as he could be. Pretty good approach I think.
I have only read the forward, preface, and first chapter, but it is obvious that Nicholl has done his homework. Truth be told, I am a little intimidated when it comes to science and astronomy. But he wrote the book to be as readable and understandable as he could, so that gives me hope! When asked about the value of such research and study, Nicholl gave three reasons for the book in an article published in Charisma Magazine:
- It provides powerful evidence that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah.
- It attests to the fact that the Gospels are historically accurate.
- It underlines God’s claim to be Lord over the universe.
Those are some pretty good reasons! So, check it out. It may redefine the way you think of the star of wonder.
(HT: Thanks Doc and Cheryl for the great gift!)