• Regis O'Neill

A Christmas Star



Hopefully we're all enjoying the full weight of the Advent season by now. The candles, the colder weather, the sense of anticipation, it's all there! I'm sure you've seen numerous posts about the true meaning of Advent and how we shouldn't just count down the days until Christmas, so I won't belabor that point further.


Nope, not today. Today, I want to draw your attention to something that hasn't happened since 1226. Yes, for those of you keeping score, that's back during the Middle Ages. I'm talking, of course, about the Christmas Star.


This year, for the first time since the Middle Ages, Jupiter and Saturn will meet in a rare conjunction, causing them to appear as a "double planet" in our night sky. A conjunction is essentially when two celestial bodies appear back-to-back, or extremely close together, when viewed from Earth.


This will appear to create, in effect, one giant "Christmas Star." As awesome as it would be, no, this is likely not the same astronomical event that led the Magi to Jesus. Trust me, I checked! I won't bore you with the nitty gritty planetary details, but suffice it to say that that particular phenomenon was something else.


This "star" is really not a star at all. As I said earlier, it's a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Normally, this would merely be cool. Like the solar eclipse we had a couple of years ago, it's an interesting diversion from our everyday lives, but not something I'd feel compelled to write a whole blog post about, right?


Well, in case you hadn't noticed, our everyday lives have been in deep storage since March! At youth group this past Sunday, we discussed how this difficult this year has been for all of us. I don't know many people that will be sad to send 2020 packing at the end of the month!


Because of what 2020 has been, this star has some more significance than it would during a normal year. While it would normally be a passing diversion, this year it means something more to us. It's a beacon of light for a darkened world. A sign of hope in a time where hopelessness is on the rise.


I'm reminded of a blog post I wrote a while back called "Pulling Back the Veil". The world looked a lot different back then, but it was all about God's Divine Plan for all creation. We should take great comfort in the fact that God has a plan for everything and everyone. We don't need to have all the knowledge and answers; and that's okay.


Who the heck knows what God's plan for the world has been this year? I sure don't. But there is something to be said for accepting that lack of knowledge. The Lord is the one in charge here, not us. As it should be! I think this star might be a reminder from God that He has us covered.


You might say that I'm reaching a bit here. Sure, that's possible! But think about this for a second: this is one heck of a coincidence if I'm wrong. This planetary conjunction hasn't happened for almost 800 years. 800 years! We will never know how God thinks, but we do know that He does not deal in coincidences.


Remember: God is in charge of EVERYTHING, including celestial bodies like Jupiter and Saturn. Who are we to say that He hasn't brought these planets together to give us a bit of extra light this December? I, for one, think He has. He knows how much we need that extra hope this year, and He wants to bring us joy.


Advent, as you've heard said a million times, is a season of waiting and anticipation. Christmas, conversely, is a season of hope (specifically hope fulfilled). Jesus' birth was the fulfillment of the Israelites' millennia-long hope for the Messiah. It also signaled the fulfillment of the world's inherent hope for redemption.


That hope, the hope of the world's redemption, was fulfilled in the birth of Christ. What hopes might we have today? The hope for an end to this virus, perhaps through a safe and effective vaccine? Absolutely. Perhaps the hope for a nation united, rather than divided? You bet.


Our faith is one of trust. We trust that the Lord, the King of the universe, will provide for us and ensure our spiritual salvation. We trust that He has a plan for the whole world, even the messy parts. Finally, we trust that He has love and compassion for us.


Sometimes, our all-powerful, all-knowing God sends us reminders that He knows what He's doing. Is this once-in-a-lifetime celestial conjunction one such sign? Maybe! I can't say for sure. What I can say for sure is that I'll be checking out this exceptional "star" when it graces our skies!


If you're interested, you can as well. From what I've read, the best time to view the conjunction will be on December 21st, between dusk and about 15-20 minutes after dark. You'll want to try to stay away from mountains and tall buildings while you're looking, and you should direct your gaze to the southwestern sky.


Hopefully, this will bring us all a bit of Christmas joy at just the right time. I continue to wish you all a blessed Advent, and I hope that the celebration of Christ's birth brings you and your loved once peace and joy.


Be well,


Regis

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Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish is a Catholic community in the heart of Cheshire. Together we can discover your path to a deeper, more fulfilling spiritual life.

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