Why is there a Star on Top of My Christmas Tree?

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There are many different toppers that people put on the top of their Christmas trees. By far, however, the most popular is the traditional star. In many cases, these stars have a light inside them and shine brightly, complementing the other lights on the tree.

While many people display a star on their Christmas tree, it is probably safe to assume that most people, and especially children, have no idea as to the significance of that star or what it represents. This Christmas would be a great time for people to learn what the star represents and share it with their children. As children get older, Christmas memories and traditions can be reinforced. Talking about the significance of the star on the Christmas tree this holiday season could be the start of a new tradition for your family.

The Christmas Story is found in the New Testament. The gospels of Matthew and Luke both contain a birth narrative of Jesus. Matthew’s story is the one that talks about the star. Matthew 2:1-2 says, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Most scholars understand these “Magi,” to be Babylonian astrologers. A special star or even possibly a comet had gotten their attention and somehow pointed them to the area of Palestine. Being learned men, they likely were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. When they saw the star leading them towards Palestine, they studied the words of the prophets and understood that the star was announcing the birth of a king.

Their first stop was in Jerusalem where they checked in with King Herod. Surely, a king would be born in the palace, surrounded by royalty! King Herod, however, knew nothing of this new king. He did understand the importance of the Magi, though, and recognized that they had seen a sign in the heavens. The king spoke to his advisers about where the messiah would be born. They told the king that the prophets declared the baby would be born in Bethlehem.

Herod passed this information onto the Magi, sending them on their way to Bethlehem to look for the child. Herod asked the Magi to let him know when they found the child so that he might come and pay his respects as well. In reality, Herod intended to kill the baby. He would not take any chances that a messiah might have entered the world who would one day take his throne from him.

Matthew then wrote of the Magi, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Matthew 2:9-10) The star led the Magi right to the house where Jesus and His family were. “They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Clearly, the Magi understood that this child was no ordinary Baby. They had been directed to His location by a supernatural star in the sky. There were numerous prophecies that had been fulfilled at His birth. The fact that they worshipped Him and presented gifts provides us with an idea of how important they understood this Child’s birth to be. When the Magi were ready to leave, they did not report back to Herod. God had spoken to them in a dream not to return to Jerusalem. Instead, they just mounted their camels and started for home.

After the star guided the Magi to where the Baby was, it was never referred to again. The star had done its job and pointed the way to Jesus. Even though this special star would never be heard from again, Jesus Himself would be referred to as, “the Light of the World.” Listen to how John describes Jesus, “The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it…The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world.” (John 1:5,9)

This Christmas, as you are putting that beautiful topper on your tree, why not take the time to explain to your children what it represents? Helping them to understand the significance of the star will help them to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Sure, Christmas is about family, sharing, creating memories, giving and receiving gifts, and spending time with those we love.

First and foremost, however, Christmas is about Jesus. At that first Christmas, God sent a special star to guide the Magi to the Baby Jesus. God’s light is still shining through Jesus, drawing people to Himself. Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on that light. For those who are willing, God will put His light in them as well.

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