Shining a light on the true star

Published in the Courier Mail 16 Dec 08

Some are hailing it a Christmas miracle. Others think it is a Christmas disaster. The Christmas star has been found – but at the wrong time of year!

Last week, Dave Reneke, an Australian astronomer and news editor of Sky and Space magazine, said astronomers have been able to harness modern technology and complex software to chart what the night sky would have looked like more than 2000 years ago.

According to Reneke, these charts show a spectacular planetary conjunction, which would have appeared as a star to lead the wise men to the baby Jesus.

The catch? The precise nature of astronomy has allowed them to pinpoint the date of Jesus’ birth, and they’re saying it was June 17.

So is this a Christmas miracle? A scientific verification of the historical biblical account could be an encouragement to those who accept the validity of the narrative.

Is this a Christmas disaster? The fact that we celebrate six months away from the date of Christ’s birth could make it seem irrelevant or misinformed and cast a pall over celebrations.

Or perhaps it doesn’t really matter? After all, when we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the birth of Christ, and the person is more important than the day of the year. The life and values of Christ are intrinsically embedded into much of our society, more than we often realize or admit.

HG Wells said of Jesus, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very centre of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

The values of His life are values that we need to be continually reminded of. Values such as generosity, faith, hope and love bring meaning and purpose to lives that are often caught up in the cycle of consumerism and self-centredness.

Values such as dignity for the marginalized and poor are an important reminder to those of us who may be feeling the economic pinch, yet who are still comparatively amongst the richest people in the world.

Even the sense of wonder that Christmas brings with it is important for weary souls, tired from the stresses and trials of life.

As we embody and live out the values of Christmas, we can bring substantive change to the world we inhabit – in large ways and small.

Large ways can be extravagant acts of generosity– such as a young couple I know who sold up and moved to a developing nation to build a home for orphans. They now house and care for 32 children, as well as their two biological children. Small ways can be maintaining peace and calm during crazy Christmas shopping – with enough charity to offer a smile to other harried shoppers.

The actual date of the birth of Christ is less important than the message of His birth, and the values it communicates. Let’s reclaim these values this Christmas -
for they can sustain us all throughout the year.