Star of Bethlehem

(Journal photo by Lacey Newlin.)

This Christmas the two largest planets in our solar system—Jupiter and Saturn—will come within 0.1 degrees apart and to our eyes will appear to merge together. This event, which astronomers are calling the Great Conjunction of 2020, hasn’t happened for over 800 years.

The last time these two planets were this close together was in 1226 A.D. and the next time this extraordinary occurrence will grace the night’s sky will not be until 2080. The two planets will be slowly moving closer together throughout the month of December, but will reach their closest proximity Dec. 21. Star gazers will be able to view this celestial wonder with a telescope or even binoculars.

This manifestation is also thought to be the Christmas star because many astronomers surmise the Star of Bethlehem could have been a rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, just like what will happen across the sky this month. For most, 2020 has brought sorrow, grief, disappointment and extreme change, and the Christmas star lighting up the night sky on this particular year cannot be a coincidence.

When the magi followed the star in the Christmas story in search of the king of the Jews, the world was in a state of unrest. There was turmoil, hate and sickness, not unlike the year we’ve experienced and I can’t help but interpret this astonishing astrological event as a sign of hope and optimism for the future. Just like the star led the wise men through the desert to the savior’s birth, let it serve as a beacon to give us courage, trust and assurance of a path out of this pandemic toward health and safety for all. Christmas is the season of extraordinary miracles, from Mary's immaculate conception of the Christ child to Santa Claus visiting every house in one night, and even though our holiday may look different this year without the traditional family gatherings, we must make our own miracles by finding joy in our blessings and having faith in the journey ahead, just like those wise men.

O, Star of wonder, star of night,

Star of royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.

Lacey Newlin can be reached at 620-227-1871 or lnewlin@hpj.com.

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