The story of the star which guided the wise men from the East to the Christ child is recorded in just twelve verses in the gospel of Matthew. As you read these verses, I invite you to meditate on the painting as a means of reflection.
The star objectifies the idea that the coming of Christ truly was a cosmic event. The star is a symbol of light and renewal. The star is an emblem heralding the arrival of a new understanding – the good news (the Gospel) that the Savior of the world has arrived. That is a powerful message of hope for us today.
The star is a noble symbol, a celestial body characterized by its shining (even twinkling) light.
The star symbolizes the deepest aspirations and highest ideals to which humankind aspires.
Several of the titles given to Christ are emblazoned on the stellar rays which take the form of the cross, where the horizontal represents the interconnectedness of all humanity and all nature; and the vertical implies a relationship between that which is understood to be above in the heavenlies with that which is below on the earth.
The story of the star, as it is told in the gospel, could not describe an actual occurrence. A star, a celestial body located at a great distance (even light years) from the earth, could not act as a guiding beacon moving across the sky which the wisemen could follow, finally shining a beam of light (like a laser) on a single spot within the small community of Bethlehem (shining down on the stable where the child was). Optically It is impossible for a star to shine a single beam of light upon the earth. It is more likely that the wise men observed an astrological event that they interpreted as a message to go find the Christ child.
The fact that a star could not pinpoint the place of Jesus's birth does not diminish the story’s importance. The story is profoundly important, teaching a great truth which is as applicable today as it was 2000 years ago. While the shepherds who came to honor the infant Jesus represent the common people, the wise men represent those at the other end of the social spectrum -- the wealthy and highly educated. I believe that these accounts emphasize the coming of the Savior for all people.
The event is celebrated on the Day of Epiphany in the liturgical calendar -- in early January.
The important question is: how does this story apply to us today?
Like the wise men of old who followed a star, those of us today should follow those “stars” which bring us close to the truth embodied by Jesus.
The Bible, our prayers and worship, and Christian fellowship should be some of our “stars.” Creating and appreciating art can also be one of those stars.
What leads you closer to Jesus?
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