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Following the star
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By David Foster



Stars! At this time of year stars are seen everywhere in beautiful Christmas decorations and mentioned often in Christmas stories. Have you ever wondered what was so special about the star that inspired the wise men to set out on a long journey in search of a newborn King? Let's solve this fascinating mystery by following clues found in the Bible!

Now it might seem surprising to call this exploration a mystery but the Gospel is often described as a mystery or riddle that needs to be solved. Psalm 49:4-15 is a good example of this. Colossians 4:3-6 is another such example and these verses remind us to be alert to every opportunity; opportunities to talk with unbelievers about our faith in a way that is both gracious and seasoned with salt. Christmas is indeed a season filled with opportunities to have stimulating conversations that are sure to create curiosity and generate questions we can be ready to answer.

Jesus showed us how to do this when he met a Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar and asked her for a drink of water. In spite of her less than friendly response, he continued the conversation by offering her the gift of living water. This puzzled her and prompted her to ask several questions which opened the way for Jesus to explain salvation so that she could come to know God in a personal way. We admire the skill and sensitivity Jesus displayed in this encounter but don't always have the confidence that we could do as well as Jesus. Have we forgotten that God's Spirit indwells us and enables us to follow Jesus and do the things He did? The apostle Paul knew that all of us have the power and potential to arouse curiosity and have 'seasoned with salt' conversations with those who don't yet know the Saviour of the World.

Around Christmas time the subject of stars is a great conversation starter. One star in particular, the special star of the Christmas story – is of course meant to become the 'star' of any interchange. Here are some ideas that can help overcome any hesitation we may have. Last week I was in a coffee shop and got talking with a college student sitting at a nearby table. All I did was ask, “Have you heard about a new movie entitled, The Star?” It didn't ring a bell at first but after showing him the promotional page on my phone he recalled that he had heard it. Then I posed a thought provoking question, “Can you suggest why this particular title was chosen for the movie?” (The Star)

This gave me the chance to explain how the wise men in the nativity story sighted a special star that inspired them to take a very long journey in search of the newborn king as recorded in Matthew 2:1-11. I then showed him an article which gives some fascinating background to this story, providing 5 'clues' that point to Jesus as the long awaited Messianic King. This student was intrigued so I went on to read snippets from the five Bible verse clues: Genesis 1:14-15; Numbers 24:15-17; Daniel 5:11; Micah 5:2. I followed on by sharing the central story of how the wise men from a middle eastern country diligently followed the star to Bethlehem. The very last clue to unlocking this mystery reads as follows: “You must pay close attention to what they [the prophets] wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19)

Each and every one of us can choose to go on a journey like the magi, whether it is a search to find Jesus for the first time or a search to know him better and make him known.

If you want to read the entire 4 page article on this topic, it is available online at: http://www.ccm.org.za/following-the-star/

With thanks to Roland Clarke for permission to summarize his article and publish it in Christian Life in London.

Endnote: I would like to quote the following observations concerning the fourth clue: The fourth clue involves a special star sighted by eastern astrologers. They believed the star indicated that a King was born. How could they possibly have known about Balaam's oracle? (Numbers 24:15-17) Many years earlier a Jewish prophet named Daniel was forcibly exiled to Babylon where he became chief of the wise men under King Nebuchadnezzar. Undoubtedly he spoke of this oracle, which he knew so well, to astrologers and others under his leadership. Balaam's intriguing oracle of a royal star-sign would become much clearer 500 years later when the magi undertook the long journey to Bethlehem as told in Matthew 2:1-11;

The author of this piece is David Foster. David was born in Zambia and spent 40 years in Africa doing community work. He now lives in London where he enjoys freelance writing.