The Feast of Tabernacles, Hanukkah, and…Christmas? (Part 9: The First Christmas)

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, 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. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw 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 exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1-11

A couple of facts need to be established.  First, the word for “child” in vs. 11 is not the Greek word for “baby”.  It is the word “paidion” which is almost exclusively used as the word for a toddler.  This makes sense, as we know that Herod will later murder all male children under the age of two.  This is also important because the signs in the heavens must have indicated to the Magi that Jesus has been born some time earlier.

The second fact we must address is that stars don’t stop.  The Greek word used for this in verse is “histemi” and essentially means to come to a halt, or to establish itself.  How can a star do this?

A star cannot stop, but it can appear to come to a halt in the sky.  This is retrograde motion.  It doesn’t happen in a single moment.  It’s just an optical illusion.  But for Magi who had been tracking the heavens for months as they searched for the birth of the Jewish Messiah, they would recognize what had happened.  And as they left Herod’s palace and headed south toward Bethlehem, Jupiter was in the sky before them.  And it was then that this “wandering star” halted in the sky above them.  They approached the toddler in Bethlehem, and presented Him with gifts fit for the Messiah.

And the date this happened was December 25, 2 B.C.

God loves us.  He will use whatever He can to communicate that love to us.  He will even coordinate the heavens to play out a beautiful poem that tells of the conception and birth of His Son, so that all people – ancient Israelites, modern day Jews, and Gentile Christians can celebrate the coming of the Messiah who was sent to save us from our sins.

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