The peculiar bright light in the sky prompted Magi to search for a new king. This happened over two thousand years ago. And people today are still seeking to understand this bright light, and even more importantly, this king!
In Matthew chapter two, we read about the Magi (“Wise Men”) asking King Herod for directions. They had already traveled a far distance from the east, and they wanted clarification about locating the one “who has been born king of the Jews (verse 2).” They had noticed the king’s star when it rose in the east. But just what did they see?
Modern day astronomers have opined on the matter. Looking at historic planetary movement, particularly during the reign of King Herod, no obvious answers appear. From an astronomer’s perspective, perhaps the Magi mistook another phenomenon for the star. Could it have been an unusually bright meteor streaking across the sky? Likely not, because those meteors disappear in a matter of seconds, not long enough to lead the Magi from the east to Bethlehem. Could it have been a bright comet, with its bright front a long tail? Or maybe a supernova, or even bright planets aligning just right?
Astronomer Michael Molnar might have the most intriguing proposition. In his book, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi, Molnar claims that the biblical Greek phrase for “in the east” was a technical term used in ancient mathematical astronomy. Molnar pieces together clues from astrology symbols he found on an ancient coin: the image of Aries looking back at a star. Aries, it seems, was an ancient symbol for Judea, and that ancient astrologers believed that a new king would be born when the moon passed in front of Jupiter. That technical astrology term (yielding “in the east”) described a planet rising above the eastern horizon just before the sun’s appearance. Keeping in mind the story of Matthew chapter two, Molnar was able to connect his findings to chart an eclipse of Jupiter in Aries on April 17, 6 B.C., a day when Jupiter was precisely “in the east.”
Whatever the cosmic sight was, however science wants to describe, here is what we claim to be true: God used an amazing light to lead wise & powerful men half way around the world to discover the Light of the World!
During the season of Advent, we will “Follow the Star.” Everything during Advent – from our worship opportunities, adult seminars, activities for children & youth, to our music concerts and mission opportunities – prompts us to follow the star. Look for these opportunities to grow in discipleship!
May we humbly follow all the way to Bethlehem.
My earliest memories of Christian worship are emblazoned in my memory. During my childhood, my family brought me to worship every Sunday morning at Hollywood Hills United Methodist Church, whether I wanted to be there or not. The Sanctuary. Stained glass. Choir. Pipe organ. Learning classic hymns of the faith. Praying the Lord’s Prayer for the first time. I remember it all…
Best of all, I remember the people!
Although I was too young to understand, I could sense how the adults approached worship. They entered with a sense of purpose and devotion. They departed with joy. But what did they do during the “in between” time? That part was always a mystery to me. In many ways, it’s still a mystery to me. In other words, just what is it that we DO during corporate Christian worship?
If you are like me, and worship is a mystery to you, please do not fret! After all, when worship truly happens, we are ushered into experiencing the mystery of God’s presence. Stepping closer to the mystery prompts us to seek and to find, yet ultimately remain dependent upon God’s self-revelation. God refuses to become domesticated into our human-made categories and handles. Worship that seeks to simplify the Creator of the universe will always fall short.
During the month of November, we will focus upon WORSHIP. This will conclude a five month emphasis (CARING in March, FELLOWSHIP in July, EDUCATION in August, & OUTREACH in September) connecting the vision of First United Methodist Church to our church’s ongoing ministries and to our discipleship. If we are called to make and nurture Christian disciples through the presence and power of God, then each one of us should be engaged in the church’s worship, education, fellowship, outreach, and caring. The question always comes back to us for self-reflection: how am I growing and serving in these five dimensions of discipleship?
In addition to these Sunday offerings, we will continue to encounter the mystery of God’s presence in Midweek Meditation, featuring contemplative acoustic music.
Every week, I am excited to worship with you! Coming up in November, we have even more reasons than usual to celebrate and be thankful. As Psalms 133:1 declares: “How good it is when God’s people gather together in unity.”
Grace and peace,