"For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2).
I rather suspect that the dear gentleman, battling a case of mild depression, expected me to give him just a few Bible verses to encourage him. Of course I did do that; what decent preacher wouldn't? But I also surprised him a bit when I told him, "This is the darkest time of the year, and I mean that literally. We are nearing the winter solstice, there are fewer moments of light available to us, and what light there is available is nowhere near as direct or intense. During the daytime you need to get outside into the sunlight when it is available, and at night you need to have your home brightly and cheerily lit."
This seasonal struggle is one I have observed in him for many years. I have seen it in many, in fact. Darkness wears on most all of us. And that is one reason that I am always so glad for lights in the darkness. And this year, 2020, or as we affectionately refer to it "covidpocalypse," there will be a bright light in that darkness, one that hearkens back to an even more significant light in the darkness from so very long ago.
Dec. 21 is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and therefore, time-wise, the darkest night of the year. But on the darkest night of the year, in the darkest year of most everyone's life, there will be a stunning light in the sky, if you are in a position to see it. It is often referred to as the Christmas star, though it is more properly called the great conjunction. On that night the two giants of our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will be both visible and aligned more closely than they have since A.D. 1226, nearly 800 years ago. If you look close to the horizon in the western sky around 45 minutes after sunset, you should see what looks like one giant star, but is in reality the alignment of those two heavenly bodies.
It is easy to see why it is called the Christmas star, though 2,000 years ago it would have been Venus and Jupiter in alignment rather than Jupiter and Saturn.
That said, and as cool as it would be to actually be seeing what the wise men saw as they made their way to Jesus, the great conjunction is merely a good reminder, not the actual "star of Bethlehem." That star was something unique and different altogether, as is made very clear from the biblical record.
As related in Matthew 2:9-10: When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
From the far off east, the area around ancient Babylon, wise men traveled hundreds of miles to see a baby. He would be a small child by the time they arrived. They did so, of all things, because they saw "his star." Along the way, they seem to have lost sight of it. And yet, knowing from the prophecy of Numbers 24:17 exactly what it meant, they just kept on traveling that direction. They arrived in Israel, and since the star was still not visible to them, did the next sensible thing. Where would be the logical place to find a king? Certainly that would be in the capital city, Jerusalem.
After their meeting with smooth and deadly Herod, they left his presence heading for Bethlehem, since the scribes of Herod had pointed him and them in that direction because of the prophecy of Micah 5:2. But what were they to do, just start knocking on every door in town like crazy people and saying, "Excuse me, is the new king here?"
As it turns out, that would not be necessary. When they left Herod's presence and looked into the night time sky, there was the star once again. And the text says that it "went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." That star was not a normal star, not at all. It moved in a discernible way and marked one particular house. There has never been a star like it before or since.
Songs and poems make it out to be the biggest, brightest, most visible star in the sky, but the Bible says none of those things about it. It may have been tiny, comparatively speaking. It may have been no brighter than any other star. What we do know about it is that it was "his star," the star peculiarly and particularly associated with him. It moved to him. It pointed the way to him. And then once it had done that it stepped aside and let him have all of the glory, and was never heard from again.
That is indeed a light in the darkest night. That star set the pattern for every child of God for all time. Live your life in such a way that when people hear you talk, see what you post online, observe how you interact with others, they are instantly inclined to think, "That person must belong to Jesus." Spend your days witnessing of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, confronting men with their desperate need of forgiveness for sin and letting them know that such forgiveness is available by believing and receiving who Christ is and what he did. Shine all of your light upon him; whether you are a "big light" or a "small light," just be "his light." And then once you have directed people to Christ, step aside and let all of their focus and admiration be on and for him.
People are facing a very dark night these days. Be that light in the darkness.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.