The Star in the East


How apt is the star as a symbol of hope and of the new thing which has come into the world Radiating out of the darkness, a star brings warmth and light. Strangely enough in order for men to see the stars, it must be night, a time of cold, sadness and groping about in confusion. The star which shone over Bethlehem is rightly called the true star of David. With it came the portent of high kingship, the hope of peaceful rule, when “righteousness and peace shall kiss” (Psalm 85:10). Those from a distance looked upon it, this divine sign and saw that a great king was born. The gentiles were amazed and the Jews perhaps thought of the promise of God, speaking of David “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16).

When we gaze upon the stars we long for something. The old saying “to wish upon a star” carries with it a deeper meaning. Stars fill us with awe at the great beyond as if windows into heaven. This is why ancient men consulted them using astrology, predicting our fate by their alignment. We hear so often of the Three Magi as wise men or kings but the Latin word “magi” or “magus” in singular, is the word where we get “magic” and “magician” These men were astrologers, puzzled by the sign, not fearing it- but filled with joy. Hope had suddenly sprang into their murky world. There was the sign, not only the God of the Jews but for the Gentiles! They at once turned from idols and divination and sought the true God.
On the day of his birth, the skies announced: “Here is the light to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.” (c.f. Luke 2:32). The Kingship of Christ was to be set over the entire world. As the Psalmist described the sun “There is nothing concealed from its burning heat.” (Psalm 19:6). In the same Psalm, the sun is likened to a bridegroom. Christ throughout Scripture is also called the Sun of Justice and the Morning Star. The Messiah and his reign are therefore sun, dawn and light.
What is light but life, for without the sun, nothing lives, and hope, for after the darkest, coldest hour comes dawn? Easter occurred on the dawn of the third day. The tone of waiting, expecting is felt at sunrise, as if the lid of the world has suddenly broken open. It is worth looking into the Church’s tradition of vigils, Masses held late in the night.
As the Christmas hymn “O Holy Night” says “long lay the world in sin and error pining”, the entire world appeared lost. Oppressors were kings, religion became politicized and many Jews still lived in exile. The Messiah’s light came from the east. The east is where new things happen. Every day begins there. How the heavens were saying something great indeed. Something new under the sun has come: in Bethlehem of Judea, a Savior is given us, both God and man!

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