“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17)
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16)
An angel or a star? When it comes to Christmas tree toppers, people often have strong opinions. Should the tree be crowned with an angel, reminding us of the role that angels played in the first Christmas? Or should a star have the honored place above all the other ornaments, as it reminds us of the star that led the Magi (or wise men, as they are often called) to baby Jesus? In my family’s collection of Christmas decorations, we have both. But over the years the star has become our favorite. No judgment from us if you choose an angel instead!
Although the Magi didn’t arrive in time for the first Christmas Eve, the star they followed still reminds us to go to Bethlehem to worship Jesus and offer him our best and most precious gifts.
But can we see a deeper message behind the stars we see each Christmas season? In addition to being a beacon of Jesus’ birth, the star reminds us of who Jesus is, what he has accomplished, and the promises he has made.
Recalling a prophecy given by a man famous for his talking donkey, Christmas stars can remind us that we are celebrating the birth of a great King: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of
Israel” (Numbers 24:17). Balaam looked ahead through the spirit of prophecy and saw someone who was so awesome and glorious that he could be compared to a star!
In the New Testament the apostle Peter also took up the description of Jesus as a star. He wrote in 2 Peter 1:19, “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” Clearly, Peter was referring to Jesus’ Second Advent. We also note how he too applied the “morning star” metaphor to Jesus. But the essential thought that Peter wanted to impress on us is that through God’s Word our faith is sustained and strengthened until we join Jesus in heaven and see his glory forever.
Throughout history the planet Venus has been called the morning star. Although modern astronomy has revealed that it is not a star, we know that it catches and reflects the sun’s rays just before dawn. Its light is a sure sign that night is almost over and a new day is about to dawn. Just as a star announced Jesus’ birth, Jesus the bright Morning Star announces that the night of sin’s power has been broken and will soon be over.
Dear Jesus, may all the stars we see this Advent season encourage us to worship you with the Magi and to offer you gifts of our time, talents, and treasure. And may your name, “bright Morning Star,” remind us who you are, what you have done for us, and the future you have promised us. Amen.
Rev. Michael Otterstatter serves Martin Luther College as vice president for mission advancement.
Next Worship Opportunity
“The Gift of Hope”
Saturday: 5:30 pm / Sunday: 8:15 am and 10:45 am / Monday: 6:30 pm
Pastor Scott Oelhafen, Preacher