Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Star of Bethlehem

The Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, is a star in Christian tradition that revealed the birth of Jesus to the magi (or "wise men") and later led them to Bethlehem.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the magi were men "from the east" who were inspired by the appearance of the star to travel to Jerusalem. There they met King Herod of Judea, and asked where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod then asked his advisers where a messiah could be born. They replied Bethlehem, a nearby village, and quoted a prophecy by Micah. While the magi were on their way to Bethlehem, the star appeared again. Following the star, it stopped this time above the place where Jesus was born. The magi found Jesus with his mother, paid him homage, worshipped him and gave gifts. They then returned to their "own country".

Christians generally regard the star as a miraculous sign given by God to mark the birth of the Christ (or Messiah). Some theologians claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy, known as the Star Prophecy. In modern times, astronomers have proposed various explanations for the star. A nova, a planet, a comet, an occultation, and a conjunction (massing of planets) have all been suggested. The star has also been interpreted as an astrological event.