Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A Sign Of Hope

Dear Friends,

For many, this past year has felt like: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..” If you have not had the coronavirus, you undoubtedly know someone who has, and sadly, many of us have known someone who has died. And we’ve also all experienced what has felt like the “passing away” of our church, our close relationships with family and friends, our jobs, favorite stores and restaurants and life as we knew it. For nearly a full year it’s felt like we’re living in the valley of the shadow of death, and yet the entire verse is “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 

According to the Bible app “YouVersion,” the most downloaded verse since the start of the pandemic is “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 When we are afraid and facing life’s hardships, we turn to the Lord for strength, peace and hope. Our politicians have recently been calling for “unity” but we have already been a Nation on our knees and united in prayer. And after a year of this plague, some have found that we are struggling spiritually and our prayers are losing strength. As Christmas approaches, many of us are weary, burned out and, even if we have stayed healthy, we are suffering from pandemic fatigue that has robbed us of the joy and hope that we have always had during our celebration of Christmas. Many of us have been praying for a sign from God that will restore and energize our hope, and that prayer has been answered. And no..I don’t mean the vaccine.

Astronomers and theologians are talking about the Christmas Star and its glorious appearance on December 21st (next Monday). Some are calling it a “miracle” from God and some are calling its appearance at the end of this year a coincidence. Maybe, but the older I get, and the more I’ve seen and experienced, the harder it is for me to believe in a Sovereign God to the extent that I do and at the same time believe in “coincidences.” The beloved Christian story in our Bible tells us that, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.’” Matthew 2:1-2 NLT Some astronomers and theologians have long believed that the Star of Bethlehem was a conjunction – a close meeting – possibly Jupiter, Saturn and Mars that lined up in the sky to be a sign from God that Jesus – the hope of our future had been born. All we know for sure is at the time of this heavenly sign from God that, “...suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” Luke 2:13-14

As this year ends, God is once again sending this sign of hope to His people. The two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, will line up so closely that they will look like the largest and possibly the brightest star in the universe. No one is exactly sure what it will look like because no one alive has ever seen it. This celestial phenomenon was last seen 800 years ago in the early morning hours of March 4, 1226 and only the very young will still be alive when these two planets line up again this close in 2080. The best time to view it will be right after the sunset on Monday, December 21st. That’s when the planets will be the lowest in the western sky and if the weather is clear, you’ll be able to see it for about an hour. While it is the lowest on December 21st it will be visible higher up in the skies from December 16th to December 25th.

December 21st is the first day of Winter and the shortest day of the year. The sunset will be at 4:48 pm in the Los Angeles area. When you’re outside, look West (towards the ocean). When you see the lined up planets, pray a prayer of gratitude for His sign of hope. Imagine what it was like for the Magi to see a “Star” like this, know that their Lord and Savior had been born and that they needed to go and worship Him. As you gaze at our Christmas Star, spend some time in your own worship of Him.

God’s sign of hope is to the entire world! This celestial blessing from Heaven will be observable in every place on Earth. God sent the Star of Bethlehem to lead the Gentiles to Jesus, and today our own Christmas Star is lighting the way to Him and a wave of excitement has swept through the Christian world in anticipation. We will all see a very real and tangible God-ordained re-creation of the Star of Bethlehem that is His perfect timing. For this is the exact moment that we all needed the sign from Him that the hardships of this year will soon be over and all is right with the world! Jesus is coming!

“Glory to God in the highest, 

And on earth peace, 

goodwill toward men!” 

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