Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A More Notable Celestial Event

Matthew 2:2 

The world was abuzz Monday night as two celestial events occurred at the same time: a full lunar eclipse during the winter equinox.  It had been over 450 years since both had coincided and everyone wanted to see it.

Although cloudy skies and rain and snow were in the northern hemisphere’s forecast, millions stayed up late hoping to catch a glimpse of the earth’s shadow being cast upon the face of the moon.  The scientific community and the media heralded it as one of the most spectacular events of the last four centuries - a must-see of stupendous proportion - and the world was poised to view it.

I did not expect to be fortunate enough to see the eclipse because of the weather.  It had snowed hard all day and more was supposed to come.  But at the appointed hour, I was drawn to step outside on the chance the weatherman was wrong.  And he had been.  Because we live in clear mountain air and have no yard lights, the scene my eyes beheld was nothing short of divine.

As I lifted my eyes directly above my head, I saw that the clouds had parted and presented a perfect circle of clear sky.  In the center of the circle, the almost-fully eclipsed moon hung on an invisible chain.  It was surrounded by glittering stars, like diamonds under brilliant light that seemed to dance in the cold night air.  I stood in utter amazement, gazing at God’s handiwork with childlike awe.  Praise for our Creator instantly flooded my mind and I whispered the only thing I was capable of uttering at that moment, “Thank You, Lord!”

King David must have witnessed something of equal or greater magnificence as he penned certain psalms and spoke of God’s power over His creation.

“When I consider Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You have set in place,
what is man that You are mindful of him?”
(Psalm 8:3-4)

His eloquence in praising the God of the heavens and the earth defy my feeble attempts.  My camera failed to capture the glory God displayed to us that night.  And, unlike David, my pen is equally unable to describe to you what my eyes beheld, or how my heart swelled as He revealed Himself to this sinful world in such a way.

“The heavens declare the glory of God
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”
(Psalm 19:1-4) 

If I had been able to capture the moon on my camera, it would have looked like the picture above.  But, I must be content to store the image in my mind and tuck it safely away in my heart to be remembered and viewed now and then.

There was a time when another spectacular celestial event occurred.  It happened over two thousand years ago, but drew less attention than Monday night’s display.  There was no media splash notifying the world of its coming; no vast scientific community marveling with excitement and directing their telescopes and cameras heavenward.  Mankind failed to mark off their calendars, or their hearts, the day and hour it would present itself.  Nor did they sit vigil in the cold winter night to view it.  It came quietly and suddenly, and only a few were aware of it.

At the exact appointed time, a brilliant star moved across the heavens and settled directly over the little village of Bethlehem, remaining there for some time.  What is not known, but is greatly debated, is how this celestial event occurred.  Secular scientists and astronomers discredit it as a supernova, or some heavenly catastrophic demonstration.  Some suggest it was a conjunction of planets aligning themselves to create a brilliant light in the night sky.  What we do know, however, is that it happened, and it did so in order to point to the location of our Savior’s birth.

Mankind finds it impossible to believe that the Creator Who formed and fashioned the heavens could, at His whim, move the celestial objects He divinely placed.  Even Christians lack the faith required to believe in an all-powerful God Who is able to place His finger on a star and move it to another location.  Or for Him to simply create another one to be used for His purpose, then hidden among the vast array of the universe.  But our God did so to reform the galaxy into a sign of His presence - the Light that had come unto the world.  The star that hung over Bethlehem, the one that awed the shepherds who were guarding the sheep and drew the gift-bearing Magi from Persia, proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s glorious plan of salvation, creating a backdrop of brilliant light and heavenly design as the multitude of angels sang,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.”
(Luke 2:13-14)

As I pondered the different reactions these two events received, I could not help but feel sadness.  There is no comparing the two.  Yet, even on the eve of Christmas, Monday's  celestial display was seen through the eyes of the world as more significant and meaningful than that which had occurred over two thousands years ago.  Man can explain the eclipse, even its untimely coincidence with the winter equinox.  He is able to reason with science and astronomy, calculate with mathematics, and give it credibility because he was able to witness it with his own eyes.  His belief system is limited by his experience and the shallowness of his skewed perception of reality that is really no reality at all.

“Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
(John 1:3-5)

The man that is able to step out into the cold night air and lift his eyes to the heavens with faith is the one who will witness the Creator’s glory in its full majesty.  Both events described here were orchestrated by the hand of God.  But the second was the one that brought the greater Blessing.  The Magi and the shepherds were given the honor of having had their eyes and hearts opened to see the Light suspended in the sky and to respond to it.  I was rewarded the same way.  What could be seen by others as merely another eclipse was seen by my eyes as the handiwork of God.  Just as He did for the world with the star over Bethlehem, He again did for me as I gazed with wonder at what was happening.  It was a reminder of His power, His great love for mankind, and a brief demonstration of His beauty which He so eloquently displayed in the heavens.

Although the eclipse briefly brought darkness upon the world, it was a short interlude.  As the earth’s shadow moved across the moon’s face, the brilliance of the Light returned to once again shine down upon a dark and sinful world, signifying hope in the promises we hold so dear.

Let us all rejoice this Christmas season in the knowledge that our God once blessed the world with a celestial sign announcing His arrival, and that He continues to bless us with signs of His presence and the promise of His return.  Until then…

May the Light of His Love shine brightly upon everyone, both day and night.
Merry Christmas

1 comment:

Karie said...

Karen, I envy you your dark night sky. Many times in the years since we left Idaho I have wished to see the amazing nightly display available to those far removed from city lights.
Thankfully, we both have been blessed to see the importance of Jesus Christ in our lives, amidst the distractions and competition of earthly influences and things. Thank you for your constant example of one who loves the Lord and follows Him with all your heart.