The Christmas Star
On December 5, 2018 at four in the morning my eyes popped open. I was wide awake. That happens to me sometimes. My brain was suddenly racing with thoughts about what I had to do and what I’d done and how I might be able to do certain things better. Maybe that’s happened to you.
After I flopped around like a fish on the bank for two hours, I got up and started to get dressed so I could go for a walk. It was around 6 am and, at this time of year, still dark. That’s unusual for me. I often walk around a small lake near our house but I’m a late riser. I rarely walk before sunrise. So it felt a little weird when I stepped through the front door of our house into the darkness.
About the time I was leaving our front walk and stepping into the street, I noticed a bright light in the sky to my left.
“What is that?” I thought to myself. “Too bright to be a star or a planet. “Wait, yes, I’ve seen this before: it’s from the headlights of an airliner approaching PDX.”
I didn’t think too much about it for the next few minutes, but I kept looking over my shoulder at the light, to track its movement, to confirm my assertion that it was an airliner. I even lined the light up with the top of a tree. “Yes, it moved, a little, didn’t it? Why is it moving so slowly? There’s a front coming in. Maybe it’s flying against a strong wind.”
But after thirty minutes of tracking the light, I realized it wasn’t moving at all. So I asked God. “What is that Father?”
It was December and Christmas was on my mind. As I walked, I imagined what it must have been like in the dark, early on that first Christmas morning, with that strangely bright star floating around in the sky, God’s signal to all of us that His Son was born. His signal to all of us that He had entered into the world in a new and profound way.
After I arrived home I shared my discovery with Kathy and she took the photo at the top of this post. I also looked it up and found my answer about the physical source of the light. According to Space.com columnist Joe Rao:
“Venus shines like a modern day Christmas Star — a “Star in the East” — before sunrise. . . It’s always bright, but this December its brilliance and altitude are exceptional. It’s at its absolute brightest (magnitude -4.9) as the month begins.”
Later in the article I learned that with snow on the ground, you can even see shadows made from the light of Venus when it’s at its brightest.
When Jesus Came
In our last post about the Christmas story we talked about how, in the face of an apparent scandal, Joseph was willing to follow God’s way-outside-of-the-box plan, and how he also may have doubted and wondered and second guessed his decision to move forward with marrying Mary.
But then Jesus came. And everything changed for Joseph. (See previous post, Why I’m Glad God Chose Joseph for the first Christmas)
That’s how it was for me too. When Jesus came, everything changed for me. The other day I was having lunch with a friend and sharing about how a pastor advised me to “study Jesus.” And how that led to a seven year journey (seven years so far, it’s ongoing) of intentionally studying Jesus.
After I told my story, my friend asked a good question. He said: “So what’s changed since you did that?”
I answered that I changed from a man who always asked God to be a part of my plans, to a man who’s now always asking God to let me be a part of His plan. And I shared about how my relationships have changed, one previously contentious relationship in particular. And all of that’s true, and all of that’s good, but as I reflect on Christ’s coming to the world this Christmas, it occurs to me that the answer to his question is really just one word.
Before Jesus there was everything. There was my career and my money and my computer games and my fishing and my basketball and my sports and my own personal success in general.
After Jesus, love is everything.
After Jesus the only thing I really want is to love God and love people in the way that will please him best. I fail at it regularly. But that’s what I want. That’s what life has become for me, now that Jesus came.
That’s how it is for anybody when Jesus comes. When Jesus comes everything changes.
That’s what happened to the world when he came on that first Christmas.
Before Jesus the world was about material things, and worldly things, and religion emphasized rules.
But when Jesus came he injected love into the world, in a way that had never been seen before. What he said about love was like that star, strangely bright. What Jesus said about love was radically different than anything heard in all of history. What Jesus said about love sounded strange to his listeners, and it sounded particularly strange to the established religious leadership of his day.
No wonder the officers sent by the Pharisees to arrest Jesus came back without him.
The Pharisees said: “Why did you not bring him?”
The officers said: “No one ever spoke like this man!”
When Jesus came to the world that first Christmas, he impregnated the world with love. When Jesus came to the world he inserted love into the world in a way never seen before.
“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. . .”
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
“By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“. . . having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
And he didn’t just talk about love. When Jesus came, he came knowing he would love us with his life. When Jesus came, he came knowing he would bear the unimaginable weight of the sins of all the world. When Jesus came, he came knowing he would pay our debt.
He came so filled with God’s love, he died for each of us.
That’s what Christmas means to me. That’s what Jesus’ coming means to me.
After Jesus came,
There came love.
Joe Rao, The Brightest Planets In December’s Night Sky, Space.com, December 3, 2018