The Bible speaks of a star that the wise men followed to find the newborn Jesus. Often we encounter people who try to explain the star by way of astronomy, trying to align the birth of Jesus with some astronomical event. People have tried to go back in time and calculate the position of the stars during the time that Jesus was born. We’ve heard people suggest the wise men saw a supernova, or some planets aligned to make a very bright light, or something similar. This is all well and good, for astronomy is worth studying and can tell us many interesting things about our universe.
But astronomy will not explain the star that the Bible mentions. First, Matthew 2:1 says the wise men (magi) were “from the East.” They came and said that they had “seen His star in the East.” It would appear then that the star appeared to them while they were in the East. If anything, then, the star would have appeared in the western sky, or possibly not appeared at all in Israel, for the men saw the star while they were in the East. The Bible does not say where the star was exactly, but that the men were in the East when they saw it.
The real answer about the star comes a few verses later in Matthew 2:9-10, which says “the star which they had seen 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 exceedingly great joy.” So it appears from the story in Matthew 2 that the star appeared to the men in the East, then they did not see it, then it appeared again when they were in Israel. If the star had been in the sky the entire time, there would have been no reason for their joy to increase in verse 10. The star then, was most likely intermittent, not constant.
But even more telling, the star “went before them, till it came and stood” over where Jesus was. The verb here is one that means to lead from one position to another, to move ahead in front of, to go before. The star moved, leading them from where they were to where Jesus was, then it stopped. Nothing in outer space would qualify for this. Only by ignoring what the Bible says can we fit the star of Bethlehem into astronomy.
What was the star? It was a miracle that God used to provide a sign for Jesus birth. It appeared in the air, not in space. It appeared, disappeared, then reappeared, and moved down the street and stopped over a house. This is what the Bible says.
Perhaps the star was the glory of God, the bright light that appeared in various times throughout the Old Testament and sometimes in the New Testament. Perhaps it was just a light, a sign to lead the way to Jesus. It was a star in that it appeared to the observer as a star, but it was not a planet, or a supernova, or anything of that sort, for those are fixed in the sky and do not move down the street and stop.
The question for us today is this: Will we follow the Light, the true Light that enlightens every man? Jesus is the Light of the world, and all signs are pointing to Him. Will you follow the signs to Him?