A few months ago, on a trip to the West Bank in Palestine, I stood in Bethlehem, looking out over the hilly fields where shepherds saw angels pierce the darkness of night with their heavenly light to announce on the first Christmas that Jesus Christ had come to Earth. Another light remained in the sky after the angels went back into heaven: the Star of Bethlehem, which the Bible says guided spiritually seeking people to find Jesus.
The new article "What Was the Christmas Star of Bethlehem?" explores different theories about what that star may have been. Now, astronomers have the knowledge and technology to go back in time and find evidence for specific astronomical events that historians have recorded. We can see now that the star was really there at that time.
When I touched the place inside the Church of the Nativity where Jesus' manger had been years ago (a spot that's marked with the image of a star), I thought: Christmas is real. It's not just a nice story that people around the world tell to cheer themselves up; it's an actual historical event. I celebrated that fact, but even more than that, I celebrated the fact that Christmas represents the reality that God offers the light of real hope to us in our dark world every single day.
We've been painfully aware of the darkness of our fallen world for the past week, as the news has been full of reports of the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As a parent, I felt deep grief for those who lost their children then, and I've been praying for them and for everyone involved in the tragedy -- as I'm sure many of you have, too.
Evil, mental illness, hatred, crime, violence, destruction -- these words that people have thrown into discussions about Newtown all point to the reality that we do need God. We do need our Creator to come into our dark world, reaching out to us with his light. We do need a Savior.
Christmas reminds us that God offers every one of us just what we need. The Star of Bethlehem was a great light that directed people to the ultimate light: Jesus Christ, who says in the Bible: 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12).
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