A Christmas star on the darkest day of the year

A Christmas star on the darkest day of the year

Just look up! This Christmas, may the signs of His coming lead you to Jesus.

On the Winter Solstice, shortly after sunset, something is happening in the Manx skies that hasn’t been seen in nearly 800 years. Jupiter and Saturn will be so close together that they will appear to the naked eye as a single extra-bright star.

Conjunctions, the name given to two stars in close proximity, happen with Jupiter and Saturn roughly around every 20 years. However, you would need to go back to 4th March, 1226 to see such a close alignment. The next time the two planets will be such near neighbours is 15th March, 2080.

So near to Christmas, this celestial event might well remind you of history’s most famous bright star event:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

… they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-10

There have been various theories about the cause of the bright star over Bethlehem. Some astronomers have suggested a supernova – a powerful, bright stellar explosion. Others think it could have been caused by a comet, like Hale-Bopp. One of the most popular theories is that the Star of Bethlehem was a triple conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Regulus. Whatever the cause, we have evidence of this strange celestial occurrence in the records of Chinese and Korean stargazers.

If you get a chance to see the Winter Solstice bright star, as you look up at the sky, take a moment to marvel at just how far God was prepared to go on that first Christmas. Not only did He leave heaven and enter human history as the son of a Jewish peasant girl: He also lit the way for those who seek Him.

Today, God is still in the business of revealing Himself to those are looking for Him. The wise men of old looked up to the sky. This Christmas, look for Jesus in the pages of Scripture. Look for Jesus as you take the time to come to church. Look for Jesus in the kindness and love of others, in the words of familiar carols, in a few moments of stillness.

If you want to see the celestial event on 21st December, find a space without too much light pollution and look to the South-West. You can practise now, as the two planets can already be seen. You will need to be quick – at twilight, shortly after sunset, Jupiter and Saturn will be only 11 degrees above the horizon and will sink down to the horizon fast.

This “Christmas Star” will be fleeting, but the God who created the stars is constantly and generously providing signs to point us to Jesus. Just look up! This Christmas, may the signs of His coming lead you to Jesus.