The King Is Coming Inspiration December 17, 2020
Jupiter and Saturn: The Christmas “Kiss”
During this year’s winter solstice, on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will look like one brilliant star. Called a conjunction by astronomers, the two largest planets in our solar system will align just in time for Christmas. It has been since the Middle Ages when these planets were so close. Dr. Brad Tucker, an astronomer from the Australian National University, called it the Christmas “kiss.”
Patrick Hartigan, Rice University astronomer and professor of physics and astronomy, wrote: “Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another. You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”
On a clear night, you can already see the planets inching closer to one another. Between December 16 and 25, look to the western sky about an hour after sunset. However, on December 21, Tucker says to look for “a thin crescent moon and two bright objects right next to it.”
How does this relate to the Star of Bethlehem? When the Wise Men came to Jerusalem, they asked: “… Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him,” Matthew 2:2.
The appearance of this star is the fulfillment of a prophecy in the Old Testament made by Balaam, an apostate prophet who was forced to speak as the Lord commanded him. He said: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel…,” Numbers 24:17. In other words, in the distant future (from the prophet’s standpoint), a ruler will come from Israel, and His arrival will be signaled by the appearance of a star. Jesus’ birth fulfilled this prophecy. When the Wise Men indicated they had seen this star “in the east,” this phrase came from a Greek word meaning “in the rising.” This word refers to the visibility of a star or a planet on the horizon just before the sun rises or after it sets.
Over the years, many have speculated about the identity of this star. Some have suggested it could have been a comet (a moving body with a long, luminous tail) or a nova or super nova (a flaring or exploding star). There is no evidence that anyone, but these Wise Men, had noticed it or given it any consideration, so these possibilities are somewhat lacking in credibility. What is more possible is a planetary conjunction – the alignment of two or more planets, or of a planet and a star. This would have produced the appearance of a body somewhat brighter than normal, but not as intense as a comet or nova. Only those skilled in astronomy, as the Wise Men probably were, would have noticed it.
We know Jesus must have been born no later than 4 BC, because that is the year in which King Herod died. Herod obviously had his interaction with the Wise Men before then and responded by the slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem, also a fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 2:16-18).
Although the dates cannot be verified precisely, it is interesting that astronomers have determined there were three conjunctions of the planet Jupiter and the star Regulus in the first few years BC, and a conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus in the same time frame. It is possible it is one of these phenomena the Wise Men observed. We cannot dispute the miraculous. It is quite possible God made a special star visible for a time, prompting the Wise Men’s interest and response. They were obviously familiar with the Hebrew Scripture foretelling of this star, and, though their journey was long, they responded by being among the first Gentile worshippers of the King of the Jews.
There is just one week until Christmas. During this time, may we pause and reflect on the prophecies foretold and the prophecies fulfilled by Christ’s birth. If the sky is clear where you live, try to view the Christmas “kiss”, the planetary alignment of Jupitar and Saturn on December 21.
The King is Coming
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