An astronomical phenomenon set to occur close to Christmas has quickly gained worldwide attention in the media—and especially among Christians.
Early in the evening on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be very close to each other from our perspective here on Earth. Because of how close to December 25 this phenomenon will occur, many are calling it a “rare Christmas star.”
You can imagine why it’s become such a popular topic!
From our view, Jupiter and Saturn will look like a “double planet, according to Forbes, and will give off a great amount of light. Why is this so significant? Because this kind of conjunction only happens once every 20 or so years. And the two planets haven’t come this close since 1226!
Some say that the star that appeared over Bethlehem to signify Jesus’ birth was actually a rare alignment of planets. Could this “Christmas star” be similar to what happened in the sky when Jesus was born?
Well, not exactly.
Why the Biblical Christmas Star Likely Wasn’t a Planetary Alignment
In 2007, an attorney named Frederick A. Larson produced a DVD called The Star of Bethlehem, which claimed that the Christmas star was an alignment of three planets: Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus.
But astronomer Dr. Danny Faulkner explains why this couldn’t be the case—namely because such a phenomenon doesn’t match Scripture’s description of the Christmas star.
The star of Bethlehem is found in Matthew 2. In verse 2, the magi tell King Herod why they’ve come to look for the infant Messiah.
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).
Several verses later, the magi follow the star to find baby Jesus.
“After listening to the king, they [the magi] went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:9-10).
Clearly, this is no ordinary star. Stars don’t rest above specific locations. Larson explains this verse by saying the planets’ retrograde motion would have appeared low in the southern sky—making the alignment appear to stand over the place where Jesus was. In other words, Larson argues that what the magi saw was merely an illusion.
But Faulkner points out that Matthew 2:10 suggests the magi hadn’t seen the star for a while. Seeing it again, they rejoiced and followed it to find Jesus. Also, since the magi don’t seem to have any trouble finding the particular house where Jesus was, it appears that the star rested above Jesus’ home instead of merely over the town in general.
Another problem with Larson’s argument is that he says this occurred on December 25. But Faulkner says scholars have already debunked the idea that December 25 is the actual birthdate of Jesus. Instead, that date comes from the Roman Catholic Church when they adapted a pagan observance of the winter solstice, which was on December 25 in the Julian calendar 2,000 years ago.
What About This Year’s Christmas Star?
So does 2020’s “Christmas star” have anything to do with Jesus’ birth? Most likely not. But it will be fascinating to watch, so make sure you head outside to see it!
You can learn more about the news surrounding this so-called Christmas star on our Answers News show. In this episode, you’ll hear about the rare planetary alignment as well as other news stories from a creationist perspective!