During the month of December, I’ve prepared a series of daily devotionals to help my church get ready for and celebrate Christmas. I created a booklet (if you’d like a copy, let me know), but I’ll also post devotionals each day on my blog.
Devotional Text: Matthew 2:1-6
Several years ago, I visited a parishioner who was convalescing at home after a debilitating illness. He was a former NASA scientist—with a Ph.D. from Harvard—who was also an amateur astronomer. (“Amateur” in the truest sense of the word: he didn’t need compensation to pursue his love for the stars.) To pass the time and keep his sanity during his long recovery, he engaged in some astronomical research.
“I’ve made a discovery,” he told me with excitement as he greeted me at the door. “I know the date on which Jesus was born!”
“Really?” He sensed skepticism in my voice. He then qualified his earlier words: Maybe he didn’t know the exact date, but he had a narrow range of dates, within a couple of weeks, given certain assumptions. “Look, I’ll show you.” He explained his findings using a star chart, the Bible, and various clippings from astronomy journals.
Surprisingly, it all seemed very… plausible to me. And he wasn’t a crackpot. He said that it wasn’t actually a star, per se, but a morning star—Jupiter, I believe—which would have been visible to the magi at this particular time in this particular region. Contrary to popular illustrations of the Star of Bethlehem and Christmas songs like “Do You Hear What I Hear,” this astral phenomenon was not something just anyone would have noticed. But for men like these magi who made their living studying the night sky, this would have been an incredibly curious event.
The point is, my friend believed that through this natural event, God was speaking to the magi.
If I could go back in time and talk to him, I would ask him about verses 9 and 10, which describe the original star “going before them” and “coming to rest over the place” where Jesus was. That doesn’t sound like it can be explained by a merely natural phenomenon, but that’s not important for the purposes of this devotional.
What’s important is that this parishioner helped me appreciate once again the importance of God’s providence: God is always at work in our world—not merely through supernatural events—but through completely normal, natural, predictable, scientifically explainable events! Nothing happens outside of God’s sovereign control. If something happens in the universe, whether caused by God or allowed by God, it happens according to God’s will, for his purposes, for his glory.
So even if the Star of Bethlehem was a natural event—and I have no idea—it was a natural event designed by God to bring these magi west to Jesus Christ—to bring them to salvation through Christ.
From my perspective, then, this means miracles happen all the time—even if we can “explain” them naturally. God’s fingerprints everywhere!