And now we need a little bit of astrology background.
Professor says bright star was probably just a sign of planetary alignment
A heliacal rising, that special first reappearance of a planet, is what en te anatole referred to in ancient Greek astrology. In particular, the reappearance of a planet like Jupiter was thought by Greek astrologers to be symbolically significant for anyone born on that day. It refers to a particular moment when a planet stops moving and changes apparent direction from westward to eastward motion. This occurs when the Earth, which orbits the sun more quickly than Mars or Jupiter or Saturn, catches up with, or laps, the other planet.
Together, a rare combination of astrological events the right planet rising before the sun; the sun being in the right constellation of the zodiac; plus a number of other combinations of planetary positions considered important by astrologers would have suggested to ancient Greek astrologers a regal horoscope and a royal birth.
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- Professor says bright star was probably just a sign of planetary alignment.
Molnar believes that the wise men were, in fact, very wise and mathematically adept astrologers. They also knew about the Old Testament prophecy that a new king would be born of the family of David.
What Was the Christmas Star of Bethlehem?
Most likely, they had been watching the heavens for years, waiting for alignments that would foretell the birth of this king. When they identified a powerful set of astrological portents, they decided the time was right to set out to find the prophesied leader. After all, the baby was already eight months old by the time they decoded the astrological message they believed predicted the birth of a future king. The portent began on April 17 of 6 BC with the heliacal rising of Jupiter that morning, followed, at noon, by its lunar occultation in the constellation Aries and lasted until December 19 of 6 BC when Jupiter stopped moving to the west, stood still briefly, and began moving to the east, as compared with the fixed background stars.
By the earliest time the men could have arrived in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus would likely have been at least a toddler. Matthew wrote to convince his readers that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. Given the astrological clues embedded in his gospel, he must have believed the story of the Star of Bethlehem would be convincing evidence for many in his audience.
They knew some of the old biblical prophecies and were astute observers of the sky. They followed a star unlike any other they had ever seen to the place where Jesus was, and then bowed in worship and offered precious presents to Jesus. The story of the wise men the Magi is remembered year after year as we celebrate Advent, the period four weeks of anticipation and preparation for Christmas. As the very history of humanity centers at the birth of Christ, every year of our worship of Him should start anew with our preparation for the greatest event in History.
They paid attention to the Word of God.
Scholars suggest that the wise men knew of old prophecies that foretold of the birth of a King in Israel and of a very special star that would announce the event. I read one particular writer who believes they were part of a guild of Babylonian sages that had been led and taught by Daniel during the reign of Nabuchadnezzar.
This would explain why they worshipped the one true God and knew many, but not all of the prophecies of the Old Testament. They were paying attention to the world around them. The Wise men were students of the stars, part astronomers, part astrologers. They were able to see the star that nobody else noticed because they were paying attention. They took action.
Now every year their story is remembered. As the centuries went by, tradition filled in the gaps and added embellishments to the original story. These are unlikely additions, but their memory lives on as long as the birth of Christ is mentioned, and their faithfulness to God and willingness to worship the Christ Child inspires us to do the same ourselves. Perhaps God will lead us to another special moment in History and allow us to be part of His story. What is horizontal leadership and how does it work? Either in a group or on your own, have some fun as we 'remember, remember why we celebrate the 25th December' - let others follow your star to the reason for the season.
Every Christmas around the country, children and parents gather for Christingle services. These services not remind us of the grace and gifts God has given us.
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