Why Was The Christmas Star Visible From Afar But Not Noticed In Bethlehem?

There are many mysteries about the miracles that form the basis of Jesus Christ’s claim of divinity. Jesus is claimed to have healed the sick and raised the dead of the Roman province of Palestine during his short ministry. These miracles made him famous and inspired disciples to follow him but from a modern perspective, they are impossible to verify. The witnesses to these miracles are long dead. Even Lazarus and the others that Jesus restored to life eventually returned to the grave. However, there is one miracle associated with the life of Jesus that should be easy to verify because it was apparently visible from around the world.

The miracle of the Christmas star occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth and according to the Biblical account was visible to learned travelers from a distant land. Matthew tells us that the Magi saw a star that they recognized as symbolizing the birth of the king of the Jews and traveled to Jerusalem “after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea” (Matt. 2:1). The star apparently appeared at the time of Jesus’ birth (2:7) and lasted months until the Magi could make their journey from a distant land. The problem for Christian believers is that other observers of the time don’t report significant astronomical events around the time of Jesus’ birth. The lack of reports would seem to rule out stars as well as nebulas and comets.

Beyond the lack of extrabiblical support for a stunning celestial display, there is another problem with the story of the Christmas star. There is a paradox in the Bible’s claim that the Magi could see the star from thousands of miles away while King Herod seemed ignorant of it only five miles away in Jerusalem. Any obviously bright star would be easily visible to anyone who looked up at night, yet Herod and his court were unaware of it.

Further, consider that stars typically seem to move when viewed from the earth’s surface. The location of stars is fixed in space, but the earth’s rotation makes them appear to move. A star that rises in the east would set in the west a few hours later yet the Bible says that the star “stopped over the place where the child was” (2:9). The typical depiction of the Christmas star as an immense, blindingly bright star hovering above the Bethlehem stable seems more and more unlikely.

The problems with identifying the star of Bethlehem seem insurmountable. The star was allegedly seen clearly from a great distance away but unobserved in and around Bethlehem. The meaning of the star was so obvious that the Magi left on an international trip yet other astronomers around the world missed it entirely. Stars normally move but this one was reportedly stationary. The problems are so difficult that many consider the Christmas star to be nothing more than a myth.

A clue to the answer can be found in the original Greek text of the New Testament. In his fascinating look at the historical foundations of the Bible, “The Bible As History,” Werner Keller pointed out that in verse two, the Greek word translated as “star” for thousands of years is actually plural rather than singular.

Keller offers a theory as to the identity of Matthew’s Christmas stars. For hundreds of years prior to the time of Christ, Jewish exiles had lived in Babylon. Babylon, located to the east of Palestine in present-day Iraq, was also the home of an advanced school of astronomy. Clay tablets discovered by archaeologists that date back to more than 400 years before the time of Christ detail calculations by which the Babylonians could predict the paths of the planets, which of course look like stars when viewed without a telescope.

Two planets in particular may have been of interest to the Magi. Jupiter, the king of the planets, was considered to be a royal star and was also associated with luck. The second largest planet, Saturn, was associated with Israel according to ancient Jewish traditions described by Tacitus, a famous Roman historian.

Keller describes how Jupiter and Saturn came together not once but twice in 7 BC. The first conjunction occurred on May 29 and was followed by a second on October 3. He writes that the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem would have taken about six weeks by camel caravan in Biblical times. It would have been unwise to undertake such a journey across Middle Eastern deserts at the beginning of summer but an October departure would have placed the Magi in Jerusalem in late November. This would place the birth of Jesus prior to the onset of winter in Palestine when shepherds would have still had their flocks in the fields (Luke 2:8).

Frederick Larson of BethlehemStar.com has a similar theory but arrived at a different date for the star’s appearance. Larson looked at the movements of the heavens and found an interesting occurrence over a period of months in the years 3 and 2 BC. At that time, Jupiter and Regulus, a star the Romans considered royal, entered a triple conjunction that would certainly have attracted the attention of Babylonian astrologers.

Larson also provides an answer for how the star could have stopped above the stable in Bethlehem. If the Magi were observing Jupiter from Jerusalem as it entered retrograde, the planet would have appeared to stop over the town of Bethlehem, five miles to their south. One of the dates that this could have occurred was December 25, 2 BC.

Regardless of which celestial event is the particular one observed by the Magi, the theory that the eastern travelers observed astrological signs that pointed them to the newborn Messiah is an idea that can overcome the difficulties inherent in a traditional reading of the Christmas story. The astrological event would have been visible to trained observers but would not have been apparent to King Herod or the people of Judea. The meaning of the signs would have been lost on other astronomers who were not aware of the association of various planets and stars with Israel and Judaism.

The search for the Christmas star has lessons for those who are seeking God. At the outset, it seemed that it was impossible that the account of the star could be more than a myth. The very idea seemed to make no sense and the problems presented by skeptics seemed insurmountable.

Upon closer inspection, however, when the original writings and understanding of the Bible’s writers were taken into account, it turns out that there is a rational explanation that can back up the story of Matthew’s Magi. As it was with the ancient Jews, who thought the Messiah would be a military leader who would overthrow the hated Romans, our problem with the Christmas star lies in our lack of understanding of what the Bible’s writers were trying to convey. When we put aside our preconceived ideas about what the star must have been, we find the answer was there all along.

The lesson of the Christmas star is that God answers those who seek him. While not all of the answers and explanations to Biblical questions are readily apparent, we do have enough answers to know that Christian faith can be based on verifiable facts and does not have to be a blind faith. The Bible’s accuracy is a launching point for the relationship with Christ that offers our only hope for conquering death.

That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Born To Die

Almost everyone is familiar with the Christmas story. The tale of how Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn and gave birth to the Son of God in a stable is traditional holiday fare. Even those who consider the story to be a myth have at least heard it and recognize the characters.

That familiarity can be a problem. Many of us have heard the tale so often that it loses its impact. We have heard the story for so many Christmases now that it becomes part of the background, like Christmas carol muzak in a department store or mall, and we fail to appreciate the impact of Christmas.

The real impact of Christmas lies beyond the manger scene. Christmas is really about what the newborn infant would do some 30 years later as an adult.

Christmas reminds me of the scene in Talladega Nights in which Will Ferrell leads his family in a mealtime grace, addressing the prayer to “little baby Jesus.” Baby Jesus in the manger is a nonthreatening image that is easy to celebrate because a newborn infant is not controversial and makes no demands of us.

The problem with limiting our view of Christmas to the manger scene is that the babe in the manger came to shake things up and make difficult demands of us. The newborn baby was an infant on a mission. The baby Jesus was born to die.

If we fast forward about 30 years to see the ministry of the adult Jesus, we would get two central themes to his message. One, that we should love our fellow man, is another common Christmas theme. As Bill and Ted put it, Jesus taught that we should “be excellent to each other.”

But Jesus’ second theme is even more important. Beyond loving others, Jesus taught that we should love the God who created us and seek after him.

In fact, the most important message from Jesus’ preaching can be distilled down to two verses. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” In this verse, Jesus made the controversial and earthshattering claim that he is God. A few chapters later in John 14:6, he made another extraordinary claim. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus said. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” In two short statements, Jesus overturned the conventional wisdom that priests and sacrifices were needed to approach God.

Jesus’ statements were either the ravings of a madman or the herald of a new way of looking at life and God. After a few short years of itinerant preaching, he would be executed by the Romans with the complicity of Jewish leaders. Far from being a tragedy, however, Jesus’ death sealed his victory. It was why he had come in the first place. As Jesus had previously explained to his disciples, he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

You see, like Jesus, we are also born to die. I once saw a t-shirt that said, “Life is sexually transmitted and always fatal.” We are dying from the day we are born.

Unlike Jesus, who as the Son of God holds the ultimate power over death, we are its mercy. As sinners, we are doomed to eternal separation from God as punishment for our misdeeds. It is in this realization that Jesus’ mission is made clear. He did not come to bring world peace or military triumph. Contrary to what prosperity gospel preachers say, he did not come to give his followers worldly wealth or to heal the sick. Even though he is capable of doing all these things, Jesus came to give us a chance at eternal life and the ability to triumph over death.

Christmas is about hope. The hope that would ultimately be fulfilled by the adult Jesus on the cross. The baby in the manger would grow up to sacrifice his life for ours, but the gift of sacrifice must be accepted.

While the baby in the manger makes no demands of us, the resurrected Jesus who died on the cross demands that we put aside all other paths to God, believe in him, and make him Lord of our lives. In return, we receive salvation and eternal life, the ultimate Christmas gifts.

When Christmas Was Banned… By Christians

We hear a lot about the war on Christmas, but few remember that, once upon a time, Christmas was completely banned. This wasn’t in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. It happened right here in America. The story begins with the Pilgrims. Yes, those Pilgrims. The same ones that we celebrated a few weeks ago when we had Thanksgiving dinner.

Conventional wisdom has it that the Pilgrims came to the New World in search of religious freedom. That’s true to a certain extent. They left England originally to avoid persecution, but they first settled in Holland. In Holland, they had religious freedom, but they had several complaints about life there.

According to Christianity Today, the Pilgrims didn’t like living in Holland because it was a hard place to make a living. They also thought that Holland, with its permissive culture, was not a good place to raise their children. The Pilgrims left Holland for America because they want a more pure and holy society.

As we all know, the Pilgrims moved to America in 1620. What many don’t think about is that, once established in New England, the Pilgrims were absorbed into the larger Puritan movement. The Puritans were reformers in the Church of England who rejected many of the trappings of the English church.

As the Puritan colonies in New England were growing, Puritans in the mother country were actually revolting against the king. The English civil war was fought between the Royalists, also called Cavaliers, who supported Charles I, the Catholic king, and the pro-Puritan forces of Parliament called “Roundheads.” The Roundheads were led by Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan military leader. After the Roundhead victory in 1645, Cromwell became the military ruler of England and the Puritan Parliament canceled Christmas.

Puritans hated Christmas because, even then it was largely a secular holiday. Christmas was celebrated with raucous partying and drinking, two things that were very unpopular among the Puritans, who were literally “puritanical.” After all, the Pilgrims had left Holland a few years earlier to escape this sort of sinful culture. They didn’t want it follow them to Massachusetts.

The Puritans also noted that Christmas was not Biblical. The Bible didn’t mention when Jesus was born and there was no record of early Christians celebrating the Nativity.  Puritans associated Christmas with the pagan Roman festival of Saturnalia and the winter solstice. Puritans also viewed every day as holy and spurned the idea that holidays were more special than any other day.

In Puritan England and Massachusetts, work went on as normal on Christmas Day. People who openly celebrated Christmas could be fined. In England, the Christmas spirit was hard to break. Pastors who attempted to preach on Christmas Day were arrested. Pro-Christmas sentiment ran so high that Parliament ordered shops to stay open and ordered that they be protected from violence and intimidation by people offended that they were open on the holiday.

After Cromwell’s death in 1658, Christmas returned to England in 1660 when the monarchy was restored. The ban on Christmas lasted much longer in Puritan Massachusetts. Royal pressure led to lifting of the Christmas ban in 1681, but the holiday still wasn’t popular. The royal governor of Massachusetts held a Christmas Day service in Boston under the protection of redcoat troops in 1686. Anti-Christmas sentiment flared up around the time of the American Revolution due to its association with the crown. While not banned, Christmas wasn’t widely celebrated in New England as late as the 1850s. Christmas became an official holiday in Massachusetts in 1856.

With the Christian concern today that secular forces are trying to eliminate Christmas, it’s ironic to think that it was Christians who once banned the celebration of the birth of Christ. Truth can definitely be stranger than fiction.

 

Jesus Took The Lash

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.”

This passage is Jeremiah 31:15. It was directly referenced by the Gospel writer Matthew in chapter 2, verse 18. Starting in verse 16:

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”

“Herod the Great” was the king, appointed under Roman rule, in Judah. He knew the prophecies concerning a messiah being born, a King of the Jews. He was visited by men from the East, men of great learning who followed a star to find this King. Herod lied to the men, telling them he also wanted to worship this King, but in fact wanted to kill him. When the wise men were warned supernaturally by an angel, they avoided Jerusalem on their way home.

Many Christians know this Bible story. The rest of the story is that Joseph was told by an angel in a dream to escape to Egypt because Herod sought to kill Jesus. Herod murdered every child two years old and younger from Ramah in the north to Bethlehem in the south.

Herod was very worried about a backlash from Judeans who followed this king, and died with that worry. His rule was then divided into three, a tetrarchy ruled by Archelaus in Samaria and Judea, Herod Antipas in Galilee and Peraea, and Philip in territories east of the Jordan. When Pilate sought to pass on the responsibility of judging Jesus after his arrest, he sent him to Antipas, since Jesus was a Galilean. Antipas sent Jesus right back.

Pilate and Antipas were both worried about a backlash after Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of the foal of a donkey to chants of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”

But before there was a backlash, there was a lash. Herod’s act to snuff out the toddler Messiah is known as “the slaughter of the innocents.” It should be very familiar to anyone who follows what’s going on in the world today.

Terrorism. War in Syria. ISIS. Children being killed. And Muslims in Germany are worried about a backlash after a refugee from Sudan barreled into a Christmas market in a Scania truck, then fled to Italy where he will killed by police. But what about the lash?

Today, prophetically, both Ramah and Bethlehem are under Palestinian rule. Ramah is known as Pisgat Ze’ev, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. It’s one of the areas where the UN Security Council thinks Israelis should not try to build any homes. Bethlehem is a place where Muslims and Christians coexist, but Israelis are not allowed.

Israelis are also barred from the site of Herod’s Temple, which was the site of Solomon’s Temple, where the Ark of the Covenant once stood. It’s the “Holy of Holies” that was shaken by an earthquake when Jesus died on the cross. It’s the place where the “veil of the Temple split from top to bottom” in Matthew 28. Now the Dome of the Rock stands in its place, and Jews are confined to the Western Wall (also known as the “Wailing Wall”)–the retaining wall of Herod’s Temple Mount.

Think of it this way. If the Temple was AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys play, the Wailing Wall would be somewhere in the parking lot outside the ticket booth. You couldn’t even see the game from it. And under the latest shameful UN resolution, even the Wailing Wall may not be properly Israeli.

Current events are not outside of God’s knowledge or control. He brought the Savior of the World into this world through the lash, and brought Him out of this world through the lash.

One Islamic scholar–a Christian missionary–I know told me that a Muslim said to him that he understood that God could come into the world as a baby, because with God, anything is possible. But he asked, why would God do that? That’s the whole question of Christmas, isn’t it?

God did this so that He could know us personally. Jesus came to suffer by the lash, and die by the cross, taking the sins of the entire world on Himself, so that those who He knows personally, who trust Him to know our deepest selves, can enter His Kingdom through our weakness.

He suffered the lash so that we could avoid the backlash. The backlash, be assured, is coming.

In Luke 2:14, the host of angels sung:

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!

The Peace is His peace. The goodwill is in Christ. Our goodness cannot save us from the backlash. But He was born to take the lash.

Skeptics and Believers: Your Must Read from Pastor Tim Keller

This chat between skeptic Nicholas Kristof and Pastor Tim Keller in the Christmas edition of the New York Times will surely become a classic. Ranging from the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection through the tenets of the faith of Christianity, it’s a must read for all sinners (that’s everyone, in case you haven’t heard).

You imply that really good people (e.g., Gandhi) should also be saved, not just Christians. The problem is that Christians do not believe anyone can be saved by being good. If you don’t come to God through faith in what Christ has done, you would be approaching on the basis of your own goodness. This would, ironically, actually be more exclusive and unfair, since so often those that we tend to think of as “bad” — the abusers, the haters, the feckless and selfish — have themselves often had abusive and brutal backgrounds.

Read it if you have time between wrapping last minute gifts and eating. Merry Christmas!

‘Happy Holidays’ flap is a snowflake issue

I’m a fan of Christmas. I am a Christian and I celebrate the holiday as a commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who I believe is the Son of God. Even though I joyfully celebrate Christmas, I recognize that not everyone does. For that reason, I’m not concerned in the least about the “Happy Holidays” controversy that erupts every year.

Every year there is a wave of indignant posts on social media where people denounce the phrase “Happy Holidays” as an assault on the Christian message of Christmas. People often take the greeting, as well as many other trivial matters such as a redesign of the Starbucks holiday coffee cup, as attacks on the Christian religion and react with anger and hostility.

Christmas greetings even became a political issue when Donald Trump vowed last year, “If I become president, we’re gonna [sic] be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store … You can leave ‘happy holidays’ at the corner.”

I’m not offended when someone tells me “Happy Holidays.” Christmas is a holiday and is included in that greeting. The phrase doesn’t exclude Christmas. Rather it includes New Year’s Day, Hanukah, Kwanzaa and probably even Festivus. The phrase is simply a recognition that there are other holidays that occur within the December time frame and bundles them into one greeting. It also has the advantage of being easier to say than “Happy Merry Christmahanakwanzika.” Stores often use “Happy Holidays” because not all their customers celebrate Christmas and it is poor marketing to alienate and offend your customers.

More and more, the flap over saying “Happy Holidays” seems to be a snowflake issue. By that, I don’t mean a winter precipitation problem, but an issue similar to the liberal faux outrages by those sensitive souls derided as “snowflakes.” These universally offended types find something to be outraged about in everything and it seems that many conservatives are taking a cue from this behavior on several issues. Christmas is one example.

Why do conservative Christians feel offended when some people choose not to say “Merry Christmas?” Christianity is a voluntary religion. People have to choose to accept Christ. Belief in Christ and repentance cannot be forced. Isn’t it equally futile to try to force people to pay homage to Christ by saying “Merry Christmas” when they don’t want to?

The United States has freedom of religion. People should be free to celebrate and say, “Merry Christmas,” but they should also be equally free to say “Happy Holidays.” The government has no constitutional role in determining appropriate holiday greetings.

There is a real war on Christmas in some quarters. Bans on nativity scenes, Christmas trees and banning “Merry Christmas” are clearly wrong and, to use the liberal phrase, intolerant. There are attempts by some to turn Christmas into a “winter break.” These attempts should be resisted and haven’t been widespread for the most part. How many of us have personally been involved in such an attack on Christmas? Not me. I’ve only read of them in the outrage media.

Saying “Happy Holidays” should not be considered an attempt to excise religion from the public square. The word “holiday” is actually derived from the Old English word for “holy day.” When someone wishes you “Happy Holidays,” they are actually telling you to have a good holy day. Christmas, along with Easter Sunday, is one of the most holy of holy days for Christians.

To take the matter a step further, even the word “X-mas” is not an attack on Christmas. The “x” is not crossing “Christ” out of Christmas, according to students of the Greek language and theology. The “x” is actually shorthand for a Greek word meaning “Christ” that starts with the Greek letter “Chi,” which looks the same as our “x.” Far from being a modern invention, the shorthand has been in use for over a thousand years.

For snowflakes who do get hot and bothered when someone tells them “Happy Holidays,” there is a simple solution. My response when someone gives me the controversial phrase is to give them a big smile and say, “Merry Christmas” in a friendly way. Often they’ll respond back with “Merry Christmas” as well. This technique even worked before Trump won the election.

Don’t be a snowflake. Let’s focus on important issues and not trivialities.

Goodness and Light

Christmas isn’t really offensive to non-Christians. It’s the fact that Christians celebrate it that offends. You’ll see what I’m talking about a bit further down. But really, Christmas is for the whole world, as long as it’s not religious or anything.

But first, a little Christmas cheer to brighten your 5-shopping-days-left panic.

I was shocked to read today (it’s Jim Geraghty’s fault) that the Christmas classic “Do You Hear What I Hear” is more about eschatology than the nativity. It was written during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, in fear of nuclear apocalypse.

Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker wrote “Do You Hear What I Hear” in 1962, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in response to the existential dread they felt because of the Cold War. “In the studio, the producer was listening to the radio to see if we had been obliterated,” Regney once explained. “En route to my home, I saw two mothers with their babies in strollers. The little angels were looking at each other and smiling.” This inspired the first line of the song: “Said the night wind to the little lamb … ”

Goodness and light. It makes me feel warm all over.

The photo in this post was taken by yours truly. It’s really impressive: A seven story tall Christmas tree, decorated to the hilt. Just magnificent. And it’s in Bangkok, Thailand, at the Siam Paragon mall (where, by the way, you can buy a Rolls Royce). The Christian population in Thailand is between 0.9 and 1.2 percent of the population, while 93 or so percent are Buddhists. But they love their Christmas.

Most Thais have no idea of the significance of the virgin birth of the Son of God, and what it means to Christians (or that Christianity has some quite exclusive claims to the afterlife). Were they to consider this, they might not be so gaga over the holiday.

But it’s not much different in America–only the numbers have changed. According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2013, a full 32 percent of Americans see Christmas as a “cultural holiday.” In fact, 81 percent of non-Christians in America celebrate Christmas.

This includes 87% of people with no religion and even about three-quarters of Asian-American Buddhists (76%) and Hindus (73%).

Most Americans are perfectly fine with “Merry Christmas,” but about half aren’t offended by “Happy Holidays” either. In other words, they don’t care. About the same percentage realize that Christmas is actually a Christian holiday* and are okay with Christian symbols being displayed associated with it. Only 20 percent (8 percent more than the Grinches who prefer “Happy Holidays”) think it’s a bad idea to display Christian symbols when a Christian holiday is celebrated.

The good news in America is that about three-quarters of us believe that Jesus was really born and lived, and that the Christmas story is at least partially true. About two-thirds believe all of it, and 14 percent think it’s all a myth.

So somewhere between 12 and 20 percent of Americans are anti-Christian bigots, but they’re really loud and obnoxious, especially at this time of year. About a third of us are happy giving gifts, putting up a tree, and generally making merry. The rest understand that there’s some religious reason for the holiday.

The fact that Jesus was born as a baby is a nice, quaint fact we can all live with. The fact that the same Bible tells that that baby will come back to judge us, “the quick and the dead,” is a bit more controversial.

Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

The world is headed into more and more chaos, but at the same time, more and more are hearing the voice of God. Believing in Christmas means much more than just a tree, gifts, and Santa. It means believing the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Do not fear. Goodness and light will return.


*Do not email me about Christmas being a pagan holiday, or Saturnalia or Yule. I don’t want to debate the whole “it’s not historical” thing either. I don’t know the exact day when Christ was born and neither do you. If Christians were not to celebrate Christmas, then why did the host of heaven appear to the shepherds to announce it? Why is any of that in the Bible? If you want to be a Scrooge or a Grinch, feel free, but don’t include me.

 

A Godless Universe Sure Is Kind To Earth

NASA scientist Dr. Joseph Nuth concluded that Planet Earth is overdue for a makeover of the “extinction-level” variety.

The Guardian reported:

Speaking at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union, Nuth noted that large and potentially dangerous asteroids and comets are extremely rare, compared to the small objects that occasionally explode in Earth’s sky or strike its surface. “But on the other hand they are the extinction-level events, things like dinosaur killers, they’re 50 to 60 million years apart, essentially. You could say, of course, we’re due, but it’s a random course at that point.”

There you go. We’re due for it. The universe is just random enough that our existence here is totally by accident and unnoticed, and the end of it will be just as accidental and unnoticed.

And then there’s what physicist Dr. John Polkinghorne, who was a professor at Cambridge, said, as related by one of his former students, Ravi Zacharias.

In the earliest picoseconds of the universe, the fine tuning of things had to be so amazingly precise. If you consider just one variable of the many, the expansion-contraction ratio, it had to be so exact, that it would be like taking aim at a one-square-inch target at the other end of the universe, 20 billion light years away, and hitting it bulls-eye. And that is just one of the contingencies that had to be precisely so for the universe to come into existence.

I guess somebody must have noticed us, because we’re here, on the one planet in this solar system where water can exist in its liquid, ice, vapor, and gaseous forms, where solar radiation is deflected by the magnetic field created by its solid iron core, where our moon absorbs many of the so-called “extinction-level” objects headed for our planet.

We’re far enough away from the galactic core not to be consumed by a supermassive black hole, but positioned perfectly to see the universe in all its splendor. And nobody has come up with a testable theory of just how that first life appeared here.

There is so much we don’t know about our own planet, never mind the rest of the universe, that all our guesses about when some planet-immolating meteor will end humanity are just that–fantastic guesses sprung from imagination combined with mathematics.

We know far more about the history of a tiny town called Bethlehem, on a dusty road a few miles from the hills of Jerusalem, a mere 2,000 years ago. We know who ruled the Roman Empire, who was tetrarch of Judea, and how the shepherds of the field tended their flocks.

We have abundant source material of how a baby born in the humblest of circumstances attracted the attention of men from the East who studied the stars. These men followed a star to worship the King of the Jews.

Yet scientists tell us how we’re woefully unprepared for what the cold, random, Godless universe will throw at this planet (as if we really could do anything about it). We would be much better engaged in preparing for another event we’re due for. That would be the return of Him who through His Word, hit the bulls-eye from 20 billion light-years away.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:11