One of the several events of Christmas that continues to fascinate us is the star of Bethlehem. New information and technology led to the 2007 film entitled The Star of Bethlehem from Stephen McEveety, producer of The Passion of the Christ. This film portrays the nighttime sky and the position of the stars and planets as they may have been viewed by people in 2 BC. The conclusion points to a December 25 day (estimated, as there was no “December 25” in 2 BC) in which the spectacular alignment of certain planets and stars occurred in a one-time display of brilliance and convergence of light in the nighttime heavens and the ray of light shining on a small Judean village called Bethlehem Ephrathah. With this powerful display of celestial and cosmic proportions, the possibility of an angel of light remains not only as an alternative explanation to “the star” but as a concurrent event as well so that the glory of all creation responds to the grandest event of all time––the human birth of Immanuel—God in flesh!
To compliment the recognition and honor on earth, shepherds nearby are summoned by a chorus of angels and have only a short distance to travel to the holy stall. The kings, wise men, or magi (long-held tradition depicts three because of the three gifts brought) present a more complex response. When consulting with King Herod upon their caravan’s arrival in Jerusalem, they ask, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2, KJV-BRG). Herod probes and learns the exact time the star appeared. Fearful of being deposed as king, Herod orders the slaughter of male children two years old and under in Bethlehem, which tells us the royal visitors have been in travel mode for some time (two years). Where did this elite band come from, and why did they travel for months or years over hundreds or even thousands of miles to attend a newborn baby shower?
A psalm of David, a king himself, may give us some insight: “May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts. May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him” (Ps. 72:10–11, NIV). What is significant about kings from Tarshish, Sheba, and Seba? Who are these guys? Closer scrutiny reveals that Tarshish was a “grandson” of Japheth (Gen. 10:4), Sheba was a “grandson” of Shem (Gen. 10:26), and Seba was a “grandson” of Ham (Gen. 10:7). After Noah’s ark landed, three continents were populated by these three sons of Noah and their wives. Shem went to Europe, Ham went to Africa, and Japheth went to Asia. The kings, wise men, or magi who approached King Herod, then, could represent direct descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. One thing for is certain, however: all nations of the earth came forth from Noah’s three sons (Gen. 9). This detail is truly an amazing display of God’s pinpoint accuracy in laying out the genealogy of mankind. After the ark experience, Noah, a “savior” of sorts of earth’s creation, sends out three sons to begin a new creation on the three continents of the world at that time. Within the manger (parallel to the ark), Immanuel—the baby Jesus, the Christ child, the Savior of earth’s creation—, draws in three kings from three continents representing the world and its population at that time.
Now it is complete! The heavens explode with a magnificent display of light, and creation above points to the “wooden ark” where the Savior lay. Angels, messengers of God, speak and sing and shout and point to the manger where the Savior rested. Shepherds from Judea rush from the jubilee of nighttime song by heavenly hosts and point with staff in hand to the hay-filled crib where the little Lamb lay. Even creatures from the stall and barnyard attend and gaze upon their Creator as he lies low in an animal feed trough. Kings from distant shores, with provisions for months of travel, follow the star of Bethlehem and arrive on scene and worship the newborn King with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; each gift speaks of divine events to follow. All of creation…all of creation…all of creation has bowed before the King of kings and Lord of lords through whom and by whom all things have been created! Truly, Psalm 2:6–7 has come to be: “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain [Bethlehem]….
[[why do you say “Bethlehem” is the “holy mountain”? I always understood the “holy mountain” to be referencing Zion, that is, Jerusalem.]]
You are my son; today [Christmas Day] I have become your father” (NIV). This proclamation became true that blessed night over 2,000 years ago. “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17, NIV). What a holy night it was in all splendor and glory. The star of Bethlehem led the way until it stopped over the place where Jesus lay!
The star of Bethlehem will also appear again. Jesus, the “Star,” will appear in flaming fire, and every eye shall behold him. All of creation will see him, and every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (see Phil. 2:5–11). Jesus, the Lamb, will be the lamp from which this “Star” shines.
“The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” (Rev. 21:24, NIV).
“I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16, NIV).
O, come again, Star of Bethlehem!