Contemplating Jesus

LIGHT OF THE WORLD

Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

NASA supernova

Jesus’ birth which is celebrated (at least in the west) during the darkest time of the year carries with it many significances. The most prominent – and pertinent at this time – is the “star in the east.”   In Pope Benedict XVI’s recent book, in which he explores the infant narratives of Jesus, he points to historical as well as theological facts to embellish the story of the Three Wise Men.  They not only recognized the star as a prophetic sign in the night sky but also set out to seek and meet its promise.

Astronomical research has pinpointed a new star as having appeared a few years before the recorded birth of Christ – around 4 – 5 B.C.  Because of this revelation many now proclaim that Jesus was actually born a few years earlier than previously believed.

During that time, there was widespread belief not only in Israel but in its neighbouring countries that a period of prosperity and peace was on its way. In ancient Egypt the night sky was frequently scanned for signs of prophecy.  The appearance of a star – in the east – confirmed for those who believed – and had waited – that this was a sign that the auspicious period had dawned.

Ambassadors from the empires of Egypt and Assyria were known to regularly visit Jerusalem.  The prophet Isaiah, present at some of these meetings, wrote of people from lands near the Nile as well as Ethiopia (re.f Isaiah 18:1.)

The Magi, a term given a priestly caste of Persians, (although their particular identity as three kings cannot be proven) knew to visit King Herod on their way.  This might suggest that they had met him in Jerusalem before.

In any case, from a scriptural point of view these men represented “the movement” of non-Jewish peoples towards the light of Christ which sparkled like a star guiding them to find and adore “the King of the Jews.”   Pope Benedict XVI states that the light of the star implies that “the cosmos speaks of Christ, even though its language is not yet fully intelligible to man in his present state.” *

What is significant in understanding the light of Jesus is that his coming into our world was “a kind of anthropological revolution: human nature assumed by God…….is greater than all the powers of the material world, greater than the entire universe.”  **   Therefore, the Pope emphasizes that the star in the east was not a beacon for others to be drawn to “the child’s destiny” on earth, but was instead a reflective light from the child himself  who, lying in a manger in a cave in Bethlehem, was guiding not only local shepherds nearby, but Gentile nobility from afar.

In John’s gospel this idea is further established “What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people…..(John 1: 3-4).

Jesus himself claimed that he came as “light into the world”, so that everyone who believed in him  “should not remain in the darkness” (John 12:46).

Thus, in the darkest time of the year, light becomes more pronounced.   The winter of our lives calls us to search for “the true light” because, as the Wise Men had hoped and expected, the time of darkness was “passing away and the true light” had begun to shine (ref 1 John 2:3-11).

*Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives p. 100.
** ibid p. 102.

Dedicated to the life and memory of Nancy Gipson.

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