Following the Star



Star of Bethlehem, Magi - wise men or wise kings travel on camels with entourage across the deserts to find the savior, moon, desert, Holy Bible, Etching, 1885 (Courtesy of Wonderlane, Flickr Commons
Star of Bethlehem, Magi – wise men or wise kings travel on camels with entourage across the deserts to find the savior, moon, desert, Holy Bible, Etching, 1885 (Courtesy of Wonderlane, Flickr Commons )

Read and meditate on Matthew 2:1–12

Once again the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. – Matthew 2:9 (NLT)

When I was a child, Christmas Eve was a magical time. Perhaps it was the air of excitement and anticipation. Perhaps it was the lights on the Christmas tree, casting a soft glow on the darkened living room throughout the long evenings. Perhaps it was the carols we sang. Perhaps it was the Christmas story itself, with all its mystery and awe.

Maybe that’s what made Christmas Eve so magical: I accepted without reservation the Christmas story in its entirety – from a virgin giving birth to the Son of God in a stable, to angels announcing the birth to lowly shepherds, to a bright star leading the Magi to Jesus. I understood that whatever science or nature could not explain, God could. After all, He is the Creator and set the laws of nature in motion. No doubt poisoned Christmas for me.

These days, however, there are those who would remove the reason for the season, who scoff at the miracles and spoil the magic, who reject that which cannot be explained except by the touch of God.

The Magi, learned men from the East, could have scoffed, too. But they didn’t reject what their own eyes saw – a colossal star with a radiance that shone even during the day. These astronomer-mathematicians recognized the importance of this brilliant star that appeared at the time of Jesus’ birth.

But how did these heathen Gentiles, these nonbelievers, know that a Jewish king was born?

Familiar with the prophecies of Daniel, who was an exile in their land hundreds of years earlier, these wise men who studied the heavens knew the Jews were waiting for a Messiah promised by God Himself, someone who would save them and rule them forever.

They knew the Hebrews considered the constellation Pisces as representing their own nation. The planet Saturn, viewed as a wandering star, represented Jerusalem, their capital city. Jupiter, another “wandering star,” denoted royalty.

When Jupiter and Saturn converged in Pisces three times in two months, the wise men knew something big was about to happen. This astronomic event normally occurred only once every 804 years. Then a few months later, Mars joined Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation.

As they puzzled over the meaning of this, they noted the first time this happened was on the Jewish Day of Atonement. Putting all this together, they reasoned that a Hebrew king was about to be born in Judea.

Then, another amazing event occurred: A brilliant new star appeared in the constellation Aquila (the eagle), brighter than anything they’d ever seen, so intense it could be seen in the daytime. To the wise men, this brilliant new star, actually an exploding star called a nova, was the announcement they were waiting for: The King of the Jews had been born.

A king whose birth even the heavens proclaimed was a king they had to see. So they prepared for the long trip to Bethlehem, where they found the infant king. They didn’t doubt when they found the child not in a palace, but in a humble house. They didn’t doubt when they saw how poor his parents were.

They believed what most Jews in that day weren’t even aware of – that this child was both a King and a God. When they presented their costly gifts – gifts denoting royalty – they worshipped Him.

For these astronomical events to come together at the very time Jesus was born, for Gentile magi to recognize the significance of it all, for this star to lead them to the exact location of the child they were seeking – can only be explained by the touch of the Divine – God reaching out and making the impossible happen.

The wise men – nonbelievers – believed the miracle in the sky and followed that star until it led them to the Savior.

What about you? Are you following that star?

Jesus, when the wise men saw the star that led to You, they rejoiced with “exceedingly great joy.” Fill me with this joy every day as I follow the star that leads to You. Amen.


(c) 2016 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Why Mistletoe?



We love, because He first loved us. – 1 John 4:19 (AMP)

I had a doozy of a time finding mistletoe this year. Maybe it was because I was looking for it Sunday morning before church so I could use it in my sermon, “The Symbols of Christmas.”

That and I still needed to get a sprig to hang on the ceiling beam between the kitchen and the dining room, which has become a Christmas tradition in our home. Truth be told, rarely does anyone smooch under it. But I still like to hang it up.

How did mistletoe, a symbol of love (which we celebrate on Valentine’s Day), become associated with Christmas?

Legends about this evergreen plant go back to the ancient Druids of Britain, who believed mistletoe had special healing powers and used it in their winter solstice ceremonies. Actually, “mistletoe,” in the Celtic language, means “all heal.”

When Christianity took root, pagan practices and beliefs were condemned, and mistletoe was all but forgotten until the 1800s, when Victorian England revived the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe as a sign of love, romance, and good luck.

When I researched mistletoe for information for my sermon, I discovered it’s actually an aerial parasite, having no roots of its own. To survive, mistletoe attaches itself to a tree, from which it gets its nourishment.

Like love.

Love, whether romantic love or brotherly love, doesn’t exist on its own. All love originates from, and gets its nourishment from, agape love—divine love. Agape is the highest form of love, transcending all other types of love. It is the love of God for man—unconditional, unlimited, sacrificial, selfless, giving of itself regardless of circumstances. God’s love is the tree that sustains us—physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally.

Interestingly, agape, pronounced a-GÁP-ē, can also be pronounced əˈɡāp, which refers to the mouth when it is “wide open with wonder and surprise.”

Such is the love God has for us—it should leave us with mouths wide open in wonder and surprise that the God who created the universe—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—loved each of us so much He left His throne in heaven to take on human flesh, live a sinless life and give Himself up as the perfect sacrifice to pay the price for our sins so we could live in heaven with Him forever (see John 3:16).

Such is the love of God.

And like the mistletoe is an evergreen, so God’s love is eternal—it always was and always will be (Psalm 136). It’s unlimited (Psalm 36:5, 108:4). And it is mine.

God’s is the love from which all other love springs and is sustained. We love, you see, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And like the mistletoe cannot survive without being attached to the tree, so our love cannot sustain itself. God’s love is the tree that feeds us, gives us life, and enables us to love.

And just like the meaning of mistletoe is “all heal,” God’s love is the healing salve we need for all our wounds—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.

Wow. All that about a sprig of evergreen we hang up in our homes at Christmastime and for the most part forget about.

A sprig of evergreen that reminds us of the love God has for each one of us—nourishing, life-giving, and eternal.



As we light the third Advent candle—the candle of Love—may we be reminded, O God, of the love that sent Your Son from heaven to earth so that we may have heaven forever. Amen.

Read and meditate on 1 John 4:7–21