Advent and the Star of Bethleham

How is everyone’s Advent coming along?  I made this advent calendar once, and was inspired by Olimomok last year, so I started hoarding toilet roll cores early this year (it’s not easy to get to 25 okay!).

The girls and I had a fun time wrapping the rolls with MT washi tape and whatever paper we could find (which explains the weird colours), which was a great bonding activity in itself. Then I helped to glue it all together, with a simple cardboard ‘roof’.


Then I went online and found this cute printable of advent bible verses from this lovely site. I placed them into the open slots behind so the girls could read a verse a day. I wanted to add some small treats, but ran out of time. Anyway, they had their aunt’s professional scrapbooker advent calendar (with many different little packets of sweets) inside to raid everytime they visited.

During this Advent season, the sermons at church were all about anticipating the King, living in the now but not yet, and pondering the incarnation, and not just the birth.

Preparing our hearts for Christmas reminded me of this article I read last year, on Astronomy and the Star of Bethleham.  Very fascinating. I learnt so many things from it……

In order to reach Bethlehem, the wise men had to travel directly south from Jerusalem; somehow that “star in the east” “went before them, ‘til it came and stood over where the young child was.” How can a star “in the east” guide our wise men to the south?

[Another] astronomy puzzle: How does Matthew’s star move “before them,” like the tail lights on the snowplow you might follow during a blizzard, and then stop and stand over the manger in Bethlehem, inside of which supposedly lies the infant Jesus?

Astronomer Michael Molnar points out that “in the east” is a literal translation of the Greek phrase en te anatole, which was a technical term used in Greek mathematical astrology 2,000 years ago. It described, very specifically, a planet that would rise above the eastern horizon just before the Sun would appear. Then, just moments after the planet rises, it disappears in the bright glare of the Sun in the morning sky. Except for a brief moment, no one can see this “star in the east.”

Some astronomy background: In a human lifetime, virtually all the stars remain fixed in their places; the stars rise and set every night, but they do not move relative to each other. The stars in the Big Dipper appear year after year always in the same place. But the planets, the Sun, and the Moon wander through the fixed stars; in fact, the word planet comes from the Greek word for wandering star. Though the planets, Sun and Moon move along approximately the same path through the background stars, they travel at different speeds, so they often lap each other. When the Sun catches up with a planet, we can’t see the planet, but when the Sun passes far enough beyond it, the planet reappears.

And now we need a little bit of astrology background. When the planet reappears again for the first time, and rises in the morning sky just moments before the Sun, for the first time in many months after having been hidden in the Sun’s glare for those many months, that moment is known to astrologers as a heliacal rising. A heliacal rising, that special first reappearance of a planet, is what en te anatole referred to in ancient Greek astrology. In particular, the reappearance of a planet like Jupiter was thought by Greek astrologers to be symbolically significant for anyone born on that day.

Thus, the “star in the east” refers to an astronomical event with supposed astrological significance in the context of ancient Greek astrology.

What about the star parked directly above the first crèche? The word usually translated as “stood over” comes from the Greek word epano, which also had an important meaning in ancient astrology. It refers to a particular moment when a planet stops moving and changes apparent direction from westward to eastward motion. This occurs when the Earth, which orbits the Sun more quickly than Mars or Jupiter or Saturn, catches up with, or laps, the other planet.

Together, a rare combination of astrological events (the right planet rising before the Sun; the Sun being in the right constellation of the zodiac; plus a number of other combinations of planetary positions considered important by astrologers) would have suggested to ancient Greek astrologers a regal horoscope and a royal birth.

Molnar believes that the wise men were, in fact, very wise and mathematically-adept astrologers. They also knew about the Old Testament prophecy that a new king would be born of the family of David. Most likely, they had been watching the heavens for years, waiting for alignments that would foretell the birth of this king. When they identified a powerful set of astrological portents, they decided the time was right to set out to find the prophesied leader.

If Matthew’s wise men actually undertook a journey to search for a newborn king, the bright star didn’t guide them; it only told them when to set out. And they wouldn’t have found an infant swaddled in a manger. After all, the baby was already 8 months old by the time they decoded the astrological message they believed predicted the birth of a future king. The portent began on April 17 of 6 B.C. (with the heliacal rising of Jupiter that morning, followed, at noon, by its lunar occultation in the constellation Aries) and lasted until December 19 of 6 B.C. (when Jupiter stopped moving to the west, stood still briefly, and began moving to the east, as compared with the fixed background stars). By the earliest time the men could have arrived in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus would likely have been at least a toddler.

I read elsewhere that since King Herod ordered all the baby boys two years old and younger to be killed, after meeting the Magi, Jesus would have been at most two years old, at the point that the wise men first came to him.

The wise men were likely not kings, and there is no mention that they numbered three. It was deduced that because they brought three gifts, there were three of them. How’s that for debunking their presence at the nativity scene? 😛

Regardless, I thought it particularly encouraging that the devotional (Crosswalk) pointed out that so early in Christ’s birth, Gentiles (the wise men from what was likely to be Babylon) came forth to worship him, thus foreshadowing his election of Gentiles, as well as Jews.

All in all, what a powerful revelation, and confirmation from the heavens and stars made by the Father, in heralding the birth of the Son who would save us all.


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  2 comments for “Advent and the Star of Bethleham

  1. December 23, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    What interesting trivia you read up on! Thanks for sharing about it.. and really wonderful craft work with the advent calendar. Can reuse again!

    Had too much things going on this year so we just went with a store-bought chocolate calendar and our lego ones haha
    Ai Sakura recently posted…Wordless Wednesday {linky}: Singapore Playgrounds – The Bank Bar + Bistro | Week 42My Profile

    • December 23, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      Haha yah maybe can reuse again, I didn’t think of that! Yah, an uncle bought the Lego Advent one for the girls but let them open it all in one day! :/

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