Little Star up Above the World so High

Is the Journey of the Magi a Story of our Journey?

Jim Allen

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is a popular bedtime rhyme written in 1806 by Jane Taylor. No one knows her inspiration for writing the imaginative lullaby although the poem was widely acclaimed then and even more so today. The bedtime rhyme, now having also been set to music, is a true childhood treasure. While the rhyme is simple, its message is more profound than one might think.

Through the centuries, and especially from the birth of Christ, men have wondered about the stars twinkling up above so high. One star stands out among the incalculable number of stars, known as the Bethlehem Star. Perhaps Jane Taylor wondered about it too when she sat down to pen the rhyme that has fueled the imaginations of children ever since.

Included along within the Bethlehem Star mystery is the story of the Magi, the wise men who saw the star. Every Christmas the Magi story comes to life as the faithful read about these men of old. They traveled from the East in search of the newborn king. During biblical times, it was not uncommon for foreign ambassadors of crowned heads to seek out and present a treasure or gift to honor the birth of new royalty.

Scholars and theologians alike are left wondering how it came to be that men of royal means, in a distant land, knew about this prophesized unborn king. And then, how did they come to know they would need to follow a star that would show the way? The Magi knew about this new born King of the Jews because they read about the prophecy in scripture (Numbers 24:17; Micah 5:2-5).

Every word and verse in the Bible has meaning, and surely this part of the Christmas story has a lesson for us today. But what is it? We know the Magi were wise men from the East, perhaps Persia. We know they had access to prophetic scripture. And while the Bible does not say how many wise men traveled to find the Savior, traditional stories of old put the number at three because each wise man went bearing a gift. We know the Magi knew this birth would be extraordinary because the gifts to be given were gold for royalty, frankincense for divinity, and myrrh for burial, a type of perfume. And, we know the Magi traveled nearly a thousand miles, enduring days of searing weather on sifting sand and rock-laden roads. Drawn by the power of this star, they traveled for months, believing they would one day find the new born king.

The Bible suggests that only the Magi saw the star and no one else (Matthew 2:2). Did they see the star because they were the only one's looking for the sign? While many cynics suggest the star was a supernova or celestial phenomenon, others say the star was nothing more than a fairytale. The Bible, however, puts forward a more likely possibility.

A Got Questions article entitled"What was the Star of Bethlehem" brings into play compelling arguments to suggest the star could not have been a solar event for one very good reason: "Celestial bodies normally move from east to west due to the earth's rotation, yet this Star led the magi from Jerusalem south to Bethlehem. Not only that, but it led them directly to the place where Joseph and Mary were staying, stopping directly overhead. There is no natural stellar phenomenon that can do that."[1]

While most believe the Christmas story about the Magi is unique, they agree divine intervention could only have led the Magi (and only these men of royal renown) to Jesus. So, if the star was extraordinary and not a celestial phenomenon as scientist suggest, then what was it?

"What we likely have in Matthew 2:1-12 is a manifestation of the Shekinah Glory. The Shekinah, which literally means '"dwelling of God,'" was the visible presence of the Lord. The Shekinah can appear to specific individuals, it can disappear and re-appear, it was seen in connection with Christ's ministry (e.g., Matthew 17:5; Acts 1:9), and it can lead people to specific locations. It shouldn't surprise us that God would use a miraculous sign to signal the advent of His Son, the Messiah, into the world." [ibid]

What are lessons from the story of the Magi? One lesson is God can guide people to Christ by extraordinary means. People called to salvation may not know where they are going or even how to get there; and yet, they often begin the journey unaware there is a divine tug guiding them to the Savior (Romans 8:30). People today are still being drawn to the Savior by extraordinary means over long and often difficult routes, sometimes taking years to complete. We all have stories to share about our journey to the Savior.

Another lesson from the story is we all have loved ones on that journey now, some further along than others with a few yet to begin. While they may not be at the feet of Jesus today, our most earnest hope is they will be someday. If you are praying for family and friends, rest assured God's divine tug on their heart will guide them through the dark, rock laden paths in life (John 6:44).

Those called to begin their journey to the Savior are in some ways like wise men, setting aside all to find the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2). Once in his presence these seekers of truth will acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord (2 Peter 3:18), giving their heart (filled with love) as the only treasure of eternal value Jesus will ever desire (John 17:24-26).

In closing, I would like to think Jane Taylor looked upon the Bethlehem Star for inspiration to write the celebrated rhyme for children who would one day begin their own journey to the Savior.

1. Got Questions - What was the star of Bethlehem?

Image Source: Used by permission from Window Art in Vinyl Etchings, Christmas Three Wise Men

TagsBiblical-Salvation  |  Celebrating-Holidays

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Published 12-11-13