I doubt anyone can disagree with the statement that this has been an unusual year in so many ways. I do not want to put to words the many challenges, all of which made almost unbearable living in the grip of COVID-19. On the other hand (as Tevye would say), perhaps we are ending this year with signs and wonders from HaShem that remind us of His presence, that He’s got this, that hope is real.
Even in mainstream media the story of the “Christmas Star” has hit the headlines. This close conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that occurred this week was the most brilliant close orbiting of these two planets since 1226. Some say a phenomenon like this, which at that time also included Mars, may be the brilliant star of Bethlehem that led the Magi to the birthplace of Yeshua. An extremely convincing video on such celestial signs called “The Star of Bethlehem” by Dr. Robert C. Newman is well worth your time. Media coverage of this week’s event citing the parallel to the star followed by the three wise men brought thoughts of Yeshua/Jesus front and center to all of us so powerfully, another reminder to those who believe in Him and more wonderfully, to those who don’t know that you can’t live without Him.
The whole discussion of stars and Christmas and Yeshua’s birthdate can conjure up heated debates in some circles. Even among our early Talmudic rabbis there was a split on the discussion of astrology, though back then that term was not as it is understood today. Ancient Jews generally believed in the power of the stars, just not that they controlled our lives. The understanding of their proper place in HaShem’s created world was a given.
We come to the timing issue. Why December 25 for Yeshua’s birthday? I don’t take that on, not because I am faint of heart, but rather, for these purposes it’s not the important part of the story. Do I think mankind has gotten the story of Yeshua all correct? Well clearly not! So if the tradition has developed over these many years to celebrate Yeshua’s birth on December 25 and that celebration’s fruit has been church services that bring millions of people together to worship Him, that’s good enough for me. I leave to the Biblical scholars the important work they do to find even deeper truths, and perhaps society over time will be ready for such truths. It’s definitely been a long and still continuing process for Jews to understand the place of Yeshua in Judaism so there is hope. God’s time is not our time.
Speaking of hope, perhaps another “sign” happened this week: two North Atlantic right whale newborns were spotted off of our eastern coast. The right whale is one of the rarest marine mammals, with fewer than 400 of them left in the world. These baby calves are a surprising sign of hope, especially during a time of ecological challenge.
Clearly an extremely significant, hopeful development in these last days of 2020 is Covid vaccines. As we experienced the shocking discovery of this coronavirus in the spring, its devastating effects, the unthinkable number of deaths, we can now see the glimpse through these vaccines of better days ahead, never forgetting that all discoveries, including science, are through Him. Our Abba has given us the tools and thankfully sometimes we make the right choices and see what may be difficult to see. For when we do so, healing and hope triumph.
Just as 2020 has brought us days of despair, so too, at the opposite extreme we are experiencing more awe inspiring evidences of the reality of HaShem. Tomorrow as we experience the day observed for the birth of Yeshua, may we remain in awe of the signs and wonders He gives us, from the infinite solar systems, to His sea creatures, to the discovery of molecular miracles, be encouraged by how we are blessed. For as we are reminded of His presence in so many ways, when we fortify our faith in Him, then hope in a limitless world of possibilities, of good health and good lives, becomes our world view.
What a wondrous way to live.