Since the beginning of time, man has looked to the heavens. During the daylight hours, people looked at the sun and some even worshiped that bright light up in the sky. At night, they looked toward the moon and stars and some worshiped the moon hanging there in the sky. Many studied the stars that were also in the night sky and some felt they could see different shapes and animals and they were named accordingly. These alignments of stars are called constellations and today astrologers have 88 of these which they use to identify the locations of the stars. Stars are actually bigger and brighter than our sun but may be as far as a quadrillion miles away from the Earth.
On a clear, crisp night, I love to look at the stars and it seems as if the sky is just filled with these wonderful twinkling lights. There are usually between 2000 to 2500 stars that we can see in the sky at one time. Stars absorb electromagnetic radiation — such as light and radio waves — that fall on them and then radiates back into space much more than it absorbs. Stars don’t really twinkle but appear to because of atmospheric interference. Rising air causes images to waiver so stars look like they’re twinkling. A star is a black body that glows with great brilliance.
Webster describes a star as “any of the luminous celestial objects seen as points of light in the sky; especially any self-luminous celestial body having continuous nuclear reactions which send heat, light, etc. in all directions.” So, apparently, stars send out heat as well as providing us with light in the night sky. Isn’t it wonderful that besides being so beautiful, stars also have a purpose as they hang up there, appearing to twinkle at us.
I remember years ago, a vacation when my sister-in-law and I (along with the kids) went to the beach. While we were there, we heard on the news that you were supposed to be able to see falling stars that night. We all went outside after dark and sat in deck chairs and propped our feet up on the wall there. We had a perfect view of the sky out over the ocean. I must say, it was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen whenever those stars suddenly seemed to start falling right out of the sky — down toward the ocean below. We would have just sat there all night if they had continued the light show. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end — and that is just what happened. After a while, the stars ceased their falling and we went back inside so we could all get some much-needed sleep.
Over 2000 years ago, some wise men — who apparently kept a watch on the night sky — followed a star to a city called Bethlehem. There they found a baby who had been born in a stable because there was no room for his mother and earthly father at the local inn. I don’t believe it really matters whether the wise men came on the night of this baby’s birth, or if they came at a later date. All that matters is — whether or not you believe it actually happened and believe that this baby was the Savior — the son of God who came to earth to be born in a lowly manger.
Imagine what it would have been like to follow a star on a very long journey and then finally reach your destination as the star stopped over the place where baby Jesus lay. Those wise men who brought gold and frankincense and myrrh probably talked about that beautiful star to everyone they met until the very day that they died.
That reminds me of the words to one of my favorite Christmas songs:
“O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem Shining afar through shadows dim Giving the light for those who long have gone Guiding the wise men on their way Unto the place where Jesus lay O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem shine on
“O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem Shine upon us until the glory dawns Give us a light to guide the way Unto the land of perfect day O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, shine on”
I hope all of you have a great Christmas and a very Happy New Year — but whatever you do, don’t forget the reason for the season. That reason is the birthday of that tiny baby who was born over 2000 years ago. In all of the hustle and bustle of buying and exchanging gifts, it’s so easy to forget that the greatest gift to all of us was the gift of God’s son.
Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the Story Spinners of Laurinburg, and member of the Richmond and Anson County Historical Societies.