Every now and again, when it is perhaps especially dark and cloudless, do you sometimes find yourself looking up into the starry night sky? Over November, we had some lovely cold nights where the twinkling of the stars really caught my eye as I walked through our churchyard (which has been especially dark because the lights haven’t been working!) and, it has made me look up on quite a few occasions. And what a sight it is when we look up! Our galaxy and universe are awe-inspiring and the facts about them are literally just ‘out of this world’!
The Universe: it is about 13.8 billion years old; it has a span of 150 billion light years; it is flat in shape (compared to our round earth); it has no centre as such; and it is expanding, with every galaxy moving away from the others, so that it would never be possible to reach its edge! Our Galaxy: it contains about 400 billion stars, and there are at least 170 billion galaxies, which is more stars than the grains of sand on all the beaches of earth (a billion trillion); and the earth, it is tiny in comparison and could fit into the sun 1.3 million times! On top of these things, I am also amazed by the new facts that scientists keep coming up with, for example: that just a spoonful of a neutron star weighs a billion tonnes; that the gravitational force of a black hole is so strong that nothing can ever escape from it (fortunately our nearest one is 10,000 light years away); and that they have recently weighed the universe, however you do that, and found that an awful lot is missing…but where is it?! (I have a theory do ask me sometime!)
Why mention all this? Well of course Christmas is that time of year when we are reminded again about one of the most famous things that has happened in our universe and galaxy, the appearance of a special star 2000 years ago in the night sky. There are various theories about what the star was, perhaps an actual star or supernova, perhaps a comet, or perhaps the convergence of planets to give a special bright light in the sky (Jupiter and Venus in 2BC or Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in 7BC). If you would like to read more do look at the links below.
The star of Christmas is amazing, and of course equally important are the Magi ‘wise men’ who were the expert scientists, astronomers and commentators on world events of the day. Back then, many people will have seen the star, but it was the Magi who from expert knowledge, knew that it meant something really important and that they should go on a journey to find out if it was real and true. They did of course go a journey, and were the first to discover the most wonderful fact of history: that God became human within our universe of space and time, within our galaxy and on our planet, as the bible says: “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 14v14
So, this Advent and Christmas, as well as all the celebrations with family and friends, can I encourage you to look up at the sky and think of the star, and then like the wise men, to go on a journey to discover the message and meaning of the real Christmas. At St Peter’s and Blessed Mary, and as well at all our local churches, there are many services and events that will be happening, and you would be welcome to follow the star and make the Christmas journey with us.
With my prayers for a special Advent and Christmas
Revd James Hunt Rector St Peter’s Bishop’s Waltham and The Blessed Mary, Upham
To find out more about the star of Christmas follow these links:
9th November 2018