January 2020

January 2020

The Joy of Stars

I’m taking a break this month from our series on Perplexing Passages of the Bible to indulge in some musings about one of my favorite subjects: the stars. When better to reflect on one of the most beautiful features of God’s creation than at the time of Epiphany, when we remember how He used one of those stars to bring heathen astrologers to worship the one true God, the Christ Child!

I’ve always loved stars. There’s nothing like being outside on a clear night, gazing up into the heavens, and seeing for ourselves the myriad pinpricks of light dotting the night sky: some dimmer, some brighter; some shining steadily, some twinkling playfully; some seemingly solitary, some a part of a larger, grand constellation—all testifying to the majesty of the God who made them. The beauty of the stars in the night sky is part, I think, of why I love Christmas so much. The lights on the Christmas tree and the candles dotting the congregation during the Christmas Eve service impact my soul in much the same way as the stars do. In fact, legend has it that the Christmas tree was designed by Martin Luther to show his children what the stars had looked like to him when viewed through the evergreen boughs outside. (Martin Luther would have used real candles, clipped to the branches—a fire hazard if ever there was one! You can still see the real candles burning beside Bing Crosby as he sings “White Christmas” at the piano in the movie Holiday Inn.)

Sometimes, though, the love of stars can get out of hand. Ancient heathen peoples worshiped the stars as gods. They believed that the stars determined their destinies. The first Christian martyr, St. Stephen, reminded the Jews that after their fathers had turned away from the worship of the true God to the worship of an idol made with their own hands, the golden calf, “God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven” (Acts 7:42), i.e., the stars. And as St. Paul warns the Romans, God has great wrath stored up for those who “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 1:25).

The stars, obviously, are not there for us to worship, or to control our destinies. So why did God give them to us? They “declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1) and fill us with wonder at His majesty. Furthermore, Moses tells us that God created the stars on the fourth day “for signs and for seasons” (Gen. 1:14). Sometimes God used the stars as signs for those on earth to warn them that something terrible was about to happen. An especially conspicuous sign heralded the impending destruction of Jerusalem: a comet resembling a sword appeared in the sky over the city and was visible for a full year. And of course at the time of Jesus’ birth a star appeared in the night sky in such a way that the wise men could accurately interpret it as announcing the birth of the King of the Jews. The star served to designate the “season,” or the appointed time, of God’s birth in the flesh. And on the Last Day, as the stars fall from the sky, that will be the sign to us that this world is drawing to a close, and the dawn of the new heavens and the new earth is drawing nigh.

As for us, the stars are still there, night after night, to remind us that our God is a God of splendor and might, and beauty and majesty. If you get a chance this Epiphany season, and if there’s not too much “light pollution,” step outside one night and look up at the sky. Remember that the stars you see up there are the same stars that first filled Adam and Eve with wonder at the creation that God had entrusted to them. Give thanks to God for using these beautiful creatures of His to announce the birth of the Christ Child, who has saved us His people from our sins. And give thanks to God especially for His Son Jesus, the “bright Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16).

God's Blessings,

Pastor Neuendorf