When we look to the stars, we instinctively look for patterns and shapes that we can recognize. Did you know that was by God’s design. Genesis 1:14-15 reads like this: “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.”
God, from the moment the vapor of His speaking creation into motion, set the stars on trajectories and ellipticals that would be used by humans to see the seasons, the changing of the years, and even for signs and wonders here on Earth. Since this is the Christmas/Advent series, lets see how God’s heavenly lights were used in the Bible to point to the season we celebrate as Jesus’s birth, Christmas.
In Revelation 12:1-2 we read: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.” So if we want to take this passage and look at it in light of the constellations, our Sun, our Moon and our planet, lets go on an adventure for a moment. Before we get too deep, this is all a thesis based on facts. I do not claim to know, nor do any of the people who wrote in the books I researched claim to know for sure the day and time of the birth of Jesus. But I think that using the constellations, the Sun, the Moon and our planet along with written history and the Bible we can come up with a pretty reasonable and plausible answer. This is an astronomy based blog post, not astrology. We do not seek to determine our own lives and direction of our choices based on the stars, but rather are using them to outline the times, seasons and events that are happening. If you’re ready, and I think you are, lets go!
So the main constellation we are looking at is called Virgo, or the latin word for Virgin. There is an association with Virgo and wheat, which will make some more sense later. Virgo is flanked on both sides by other constellations, one being Leo (or Lion) and the other being Libra (the weighting scales). Libra has some connotations with it, the main one being that there is a sense of justice, of making things right. More on that later. Leo was known in the ancient Near East for symbolizing a people group, a nation. For example, if I said Bald Eagle, what would you think of? Most likely you would think of the USA, as that is our national animal. Lots of countries have animals associated with their name. In fact, if you have ever noticed that even Russia has one, the Bear. France’s is the Rooster, think French farm chic. China’s is the Giant Panda. You get my point. The Lion was the national animal of the people of Israel, particularly the Tribe of Judah in the ancient Near East. In fact, even in our Bible we see in Genesis 49:8-10 how God was setting up the line of kings from the son of Jacob named Judah: ““Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Here is where we get the famous phrase that Jesus will be the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the true heir to the line of the king. So, as you might guess, the Lion played an important symbolic role for the nation of Israel.
There were many Astronomical signs during the year of 3 BC-2 BC, those being comets, eclipses and numerous rare conjunctions, or alignments of stars and planets in the sky. These include a star named Regulus. This star is known as the king of the stars, or a king star. And a large planet named Jupiter, which is the king of the planets in our solar system. When these two celestial bodies line up, people would take notice, as there would be a lot of light shining from their collective brightness. During the Fall/Winter of 3 BC and into the Spring/Summer of 2 BC Regulus and Jupiter lined up numerous times with Leo, signifying something significant about a king of kings in Israel. Then there were alignments of more planets and stars which pointed to the Virgo. So the people watching would see a king of kings message, and then a Virgin having to do with a king of kings. Again, if you have not seen it, there is a documentary that goes into even more detail than this about the celestial signs around Christmas and I have the link pasted at the bottom of this blog post.
So, lets go back to our Revelation 12 text, if we are to say that the Virgo was, say, the Virgin Mary. And lets say that the Sun is our Sun, and the Moon is our Moon. And the Lion is the nation of Israel. Then we see that things start getting very interesting. If you have not seen it, there is a documentary that goes into even more detail than this about the celestial signs around Christmas and I have the link pasted at the bottom of this blog post. So what we are looking for is as the Sun passes across our sky, or more appropriately, as we rotate and tilt in space around the Sun, the Sun changes the path across our sky as well as where it rises and sets. You surely recognize that at the height of Summer the Sun is finally setting and darkness arriving around 9 pm, but during the Winter we see the Sun setting around 5:30 pm. This is all because of the tilt and rotation of the Earth as we travel around the Sun. So for the Virgo to lay directly in the path of the Sun would be a fairly easy model to recreate, but for it to happen in real life may be a far less common occurrence. Furthermore, if you needed the Moon, on its journey across the sky, to also cross the Virgo constellation, that too would be a hard feat to find in Astronomical history. But the text says that the sun would be in the clothing of the Virgo while the Moon was under her feet. That would be an extremely rare occurrence. In fact, with our modern computer models we can rewind the travel of the stars and constellations to one such occurrence. That is what happened on the days of August 31-September 1, 2 BC. In fact, as you can see from this exhibit, the closer to “under her feet” we want to get we can calculate that the time was probably between 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm on the night of September 1, 2 BC. That means that many scholars see the birth of Jesus as the evening of September 1, 2 BC. And if we are to fast forward a few months for travel, the likelihood is that the Magi, or wise men as they are often called, could have arrived in Bethlehem on December 25, 2 BC…the very first Christmas.
What about the Virgo/wheat connection you ask? Well, if you will remember that Jesus said that He was the bread of life and also said that He was the matzah bread of the Passover which was broken for us. And even the name of the town, Bethlehem, means House of Bread. So it is not a mistake or an accident that the Virgo is connected with the wheat, as from the wheat bread is made. Well then, what about the constellation of Libra? If we take the Leo as a symbol for Israel and a coming king, and then we take Virgo as Mary and her birthing of Jesus, the following constellation is Libra. This would in turn means that the baby born of the Virgin who was the king of kings from the people of Israel would be making things right. And Jesus did. He took on our sins, died on a sinner’s cross for all of us, was buried and on the third day rose triumphantly over death so that in Him we may have the right to connect with God our Creator. He was born to make things right once more between humans and God!
Here is a link to a guy who is much smarter than me who has also studied the Star of Bethlehem and has even more to say about the arrival of Jesus (about an hour but totally worth the watch) and although his info differs slightly from mine, it doesn’t really matter as its all amazing to ponder: https://youtu.be/oGUlWa2r-bk
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Super interesting stuff.
This is cool! I went to a random Wednesday night study when I first moved to the area and the teacher was teaching on this. Very interesting stuff!