Summary: What was the star that led the Wisemen to Jesus and what difference does that make to us today?
OPEN: Years ago I wrote a song about the Wise Men. The first verse went this way
“Out in the fields, watching the sky. Looking to heaven, searching on high.
Troubled by things I’d seen on this earth, I knew that my answer lay with a child’s birth.
For the prophecy said that a star in the sky, would lead us to worship the King from on High.
A king would be born far off in the East, and those who gave homage would rest in his peace.”
(PAUSE) Matthew 2:2 said, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
(We showed a picture of a Nativity on the screen) This is the Christmas season and all across the world there are Nativity scenes that feature: Mary, Joseph and the Baby; Shepherds and Angels; Cattle, Donkeys and Sheep; and (of course) the Wisemen.
Now the problem with those scenes is that Wisemen didn’t show up till about 2 years later. Our text says they came to the “house” where Jesus was and there are a couple of other clues in the story that imply that Jesus was probably between 1 and 2 years old.
We don’t much about these men. They were obviously important men, and wealthy men, and they studied the stars. But we don’t know how many there were (there were 3 gifts, but there could have been 20 or more of them that came to Bethlehem); we don’t their names; and we don’t know exactly where they came from.
There is speculation that they may have lived as much as 1000 miles away and that the preparation for their trip may have taken about 2 to 3 months (there were no convenience stores on the way so they’d have had to have taken much of what they needed with them). And they may have traveled with as many as 300 armed men and servants (it was a long and dangerous trip fraught with danger).
But the big question is not where they came from, or their names, or how long it took them. The BIG QUESTION is this: Why? Why had these men to travel such great distance? Why would they leave homes and families and go on what might have been nothing more than a wild good chase?
Well, Scripture says they did this because they’d come to worship a new-born King. When they reached Jerusalem they asked “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to WORSHIP Him.” Matthew 2:2
They’d come to worship Jesus because they’d searched the heavens and they’d seen a NEW star. A new star? Was that possible? Could there have been A NEW STAR in the heavens at that time?
ILLUS: Well, that’s what an author named Robert McIver believes. He spent 3 decades researching for his book, “Star of Bethlehem - Star of Messiah.” He cited writings from ancient Chinese and Korean astronomers who said they observed a new star about the time of the birth of Christ. McIver also discussed paintings describing this in Roman catacombs, as well as coins from various countries which depict an unusual star about this time. He even noted observations from other cultures around the world that might refer to an unusual new star at around the time of Christ's birth. (quoted from “When They Saw The Star” by Henry M. Morris).
This WAS an unusual star.
ILLUS: Do you know how you can tell a star from a planet? (Stars “twinkle”) You know how I know that? “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” Yeah, it’s a nursery rhyme, but it’s dead-on scientifically. As the light from stars travels through the vast expanse of the universe it encounters turbulence that causes the starlight to twinkle. Planets don’t twinkle. But I don’t think THIS star twinkled. I think it was a bold light in the sky. This was a very unique heavenly light.
In fact, this was a different kind of a star than any that we’ve ever seen, because – this star (pause) MOVED!!!! Matthew 2:9 tells us: “… behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.” This star moved until it came to rest over Christ’s home in Bethlehem.
There’s been all kinds of theories about how this new star could have been a comet or a meteor or a conflagration of planets (Saturn, Jupiter and Mars). “Conflagration” is a $20 dollar word meaning that these 3 planets “lined up” in a straight line in earth’s sky.
But each of those theories has its problems. This was a star that caught everybody’s attention, a star that stayed in the night sky for at least 2 years or so, AND it moved to a place directly over where Jesus lived. Ordinary stars (or meteors or comets or a "conflagration" of planets) can’t do that. But This One Did! And many theologians and Wisemen of our age aren’t comfortable with that.