For several millennia, probably since the earliest human beings, people have been fascinated with the stars. Mystics developed religions around them, navigators found their way by them, and astrologers named them and divined by them, children wish by them: Starlight star bright, first star I see tonight…. On a rare clear, moonless night, far away from the light pollution of the city, I just marvel at them. But, alas, I am an incurable romantic. Scientists today seem fascinated to measure them, qualify them by brightness, distance, orbiting planets, etc. Scientists assign name to stars by the constellations they can be found in and from the Brightest Star in the constellation toward the dimmest. And while I do not intend to slight the benefits of science and calculation, I toss my romantic heart more into the ring of mystics than into the ring of astral-physicists.
There are two places in the Sacred Scriptures that specifically mention looking at or following a “star” or “Stars”. Separated by nearly two thousand years, the stories are not specifically connected, but I believe not isolated from each other either. The first one I am referring to is the quote from Genesis 15: 5-6 – “He took him outside and said: ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, he added, will your descendants be.’” The second mention of looking to the sky for a star is found in Matthew’s Gospel 2:2b – “saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” Admittedly there is plenty of room in the Scriptures to read into them just about anything, but I pray that the following is a true insight and not simply a romantic dream.
The first quote refers to God demonstrating to Abram (Abraham) that despite his ninety plus years, he, Abram, was going to father his own son, fruit of the womb of his wife Sarah, also quite old. For years, I had thought the challenge to Abram was to count the vast number stars visible in the night sky. About eight years ago, it was explained that when God invited Abram outside to look to the sky to count the stars, it was not night, but about three o’clock in the afternoon. Without the aid of a telescope, it is impossible to “see” the stars. The challenge God was offering to Abram was a challenge of faith: You know by experience that the stars are there, whether you can see them or not. Now know with the same surety that what I promise I will provide. The passage goes on to say that Abram does understand and – “… he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” The unseen stars foretold, in a sense, the future generations of offspring.
The second quote from Matthew’s Gospel is taken from the familiar story of the Magi, the Three Wise Men, who saw the “Star in the East”. They too, like Abram two thousand years earlier, were motivated by faith, not knowledge, to follow that Star. In both stories, the “STAR” announces a “BIRTH”. For Abram, it is the birth of descendants, for the Magi, the birth of a King. In both the Genesis and the Matthew accounts, the stars, or the Star are a messages of Promise and HOPE; God’s power to accomplish the impossible. Perhaps in our world of overwhelming pain and suffering, hatred and poverty, we can remember the lesson of the Star of Bethlehem: Christ is BORN! God has entered into a world of intense pain, and suffering, hatred and poverty to bring HOPE. Perhaps, in this time of uncertainty we can remember one of the most profound passages in Scriptures: “For with God, nothing will be impossible.” Lk 1:37