Sunday, January 5, 2014

Star of Wonder

The speed of light is 186,282 miles per second. That’s fast, but it still requires time to travel that far, and the universe is big place. When we look at the sun, we see it as it was eight minutes ago. When we look at Proxima Centauri, we see it as it was four years ago. Observers of the universe can never see all the galaxies in their present state, just in different stages of past development. It’s possible there is some civilization in the Andromeda galaxy looking at earth and seeing dinosaurs. The further out we look, the further into the past we see.

It seems as if the past and future are out of reach, but all I have to do is look up. I can stand in the present and watch the past light up the sky. The dead are still alive to my eyes. The movements of burnt out stars still guide the way. Time gets all wibbly wobbly, as it always does. Past, present, and future are not clearly distinct; they are always running into one another.

The most famous biblical stargazers are, of course, the wise men, who followed a star to the baby Jesus. The “star” has been speculated to be a comet, a crossing of planets, or a nova. So the magi followed light from the past that led to a present event, knowing this baby had an important future.There is a lot of legend around the wise men. Were there really three? Were they kings, magicians, astrologers? Did they really exist at all? Was the star a comet, a supernatural event, or a literary device? But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the wise men signal that even gentiles could find Christ, that the cosmos would lead people of all cultures to God. The wise men and their star represent foreigners, unfamiliar with messianic prophecies, sincerely searching and worshipping. They represent the pilgrim’s journey, traveling by faith. Their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh represent the roles of Christ. The star represents the light in the darkness. It represents all of creation pointing to God, across culture and space and time.

The universe is unfathomably large, full of wonders I can’t comprehend. But all the worlds and supernovas and dimensions are part of the same creation. Everything is intertwined, part of the same story. I see suns of the past lighting up the sky, and I’m connected to them. Here they are, in my front yard, in my present. Distant galaxies join in my delight at our God.

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