Christmas is filled with all sorts of symbolism.
Colorful, twinkling lights; garland and wreaths; ribbons and bows; seasonal songs and snowy scenes; and gifts galore.
But perhaps the most recognizable symbol is a star. It sits atop most Christmas trees, and it serves as an important reminder of an event that took place over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem: the birth of Jesus.
The Road to Bethlehem
Mary was pregnant when she and her husband Joseph traveled from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem. Why would they do such a thing when Mary was about to give birth? The Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, ordered a census where everyone had to go to their hometown to register.
So off they went, Mary riding on a donkey for several days en route to Bethlehem.
When they arrived, there was no place for them to stay, no guest rooms at any of the inns. The owner of one such establishment saw that Mary was about to give birth, so he arranged a place for them to stay: his stable. This was by no means a proper place to have a baby, but it was the best they could do. So it was there that Jesus was born, on a bed of hay. Mary wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.
So there you have it. The birth of our savior, Jesus. A nativity or “manger scene” depicts the event, with Mary and Joseph adoring their baby Jesus in this stable with their donkey and some sheep nearby. But what else do we see?
At this very same time, an angel appeared to the shepherds near Bethlehem (Luke 2: 9-15). As they were watching their flock, this angel announced the birth of Jesus, so they went to see him. It was just as they were told. There he was, asleep in a manger.
The shepherds did not keep this a secret. In fact, they told everyone what they had witnessed and what the angel had told them about this baby Jesus.
Word travels fast. And that’s where the star enters the picture.
Follow the Star
There were three wise men, aka magi, who heard about this. And they saw this incredible star in the distant sky, located high above the very spot where Jesus was born, in the stable. So they traveled together on camels from a far eastern country to find this new king.
Upon arriving in Jerusalem, which is about 10 kilometers north of Bethlehem, the star was no longer visible, so they asked for the whereabouts of “the one who has been born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). They had seen his star and wanted to worship him.
Well, that’s all King Herod (the king of Judah) needed to hear. This bothered him as it did most of Jerusalem. He called upon the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law for an answer. The response?
"'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'" (Matthew 2:6)
King Herod instructed the three wise men to find Jesus and report back to him so he, too, could worship Jesus. Of course, that wasn’t his true intention, as we would later find out. He wanted to have Jesus killed.
So the wise men proceeded toward Bethlehem and saw the star once again. They found Jesus where the star had directed.
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Matthew 2:10)
They knelt before Jesus and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The wise men didn’t report back to King Herod because God told them — in a dream — not to return to Jerusalem. They traveled back to their own country by another route.
So, that’s the story of the Christmas Star. It signaled the birth of our savior, Jesus, and it continues to do so today, more than 2,000 years later. Remember it whenever you see a star, and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Shine Like Stars Necklace
You don't have to travel far to look at the stars. You don't even need to look out your window. You can wear a pair of stars around your neck each and every day as a reminder not only of the birth of Jesus, but also as a way to communicate that we, as Christians, should honor God in all we do and be a light in the darkness.
Check out our "Shine Like Stars" necklace.