The Star of Bethlehem

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


In the Christian tradition, the star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, revealed the Birth of Jesus to the Magi or "Wise Men", and later led them to Bethlehem. The star appears in the Nativity story of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, where Magi "from the east" are inspired by the star to travel to Jerusalem. There they meet king Herod of Judea and ask where the King of the Jews had been born. Herod, following a verse from the Book of Micah interpreted as a prophecy, directs them to Bethlehem, a nearby village. The star leads them to the humble cave "lying in a manger" (St. Luke 2:12). "And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (St. Luke 2:7). The Wise Men were given divine warning not to return to Herod so they return to their "own country" by a different route.

Many Christians see the star as a miraculous sign to mark the birth of the Christ (or Messiah). Some theologians claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy, known as the Star Prophecy. Astronomers have made several attempts to link the star to astronomical events.

For Christians, one of the great wonders of Christmas is the Star that appeared around the time of the Birth of Christ. The Star of Bethlehem traditionally led the Wise Men from the East, also known as the Magi, to the site of the Birth of Christ. According to Holy Scripture (St. Matthew 2:7-10) this Star preceded the Wise Men on their journey until it came and stood over where the young Child was. (Paula I. Nielson)

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him" (St. Matthew 2:1-7).

The Star Prophecy from the Old Testament (Numbers 24:17) was used by radical and revolutionary Jews from 70 B.C. to stir and comfort with the foretelling of the "Star of Jacob," which was interpreted by some theologians as the coming of a Messiah: "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel..."

The Star of Bethlehem has been seen by many Christians as a miraculous symbol of the Birth of Jesus Christ, but there are also those who see it as an actual astronomical event--a nova, comet or a special conjunction that occurred at the time of the foretold birth. 

Ancient Greeks and Romans and even Hebrews--believed that astronomical phenomena heralded actual events on earth, such as the birth of important rulers and heroes.

Saint John Chrysostomos considered the Star as one of many miracles occurring at the Birth of the Savior: "How then, tell me, did the Star point out a spot so confined, just the space of a manger and shed, unless it left that height and came down, and stood over the very head of the young Child? And at this the Evangelist was hinting when he said, 'Lo, the Star went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was."

Saints John Chrysostom and Theophilact affirm that it was not an ordinary star, like those we see every night, but "a divine and angelic power that appeared in the form of a star." Other stars had their origin at the creation of the universe, but his star was revealed only at the end of the ages, when the Logos/Word became incarnate. Other stars are fixed in the heavens, but this one was visible lower in the skies. Other stars are visible only at night, but this one shone like the sun during the day, far surpassing every other star in size and brilliance. Other stars (like the planets, sun, and moon) moved constantly with the vault of heaven; but this one moved sometimes, and other times stood sill, as Saint Theophilact says: "It moved as the Magi moved, and stood still as they rested."

According to the Orthodox Christian Tradition the Star of Bethlehem which led the Magi was not an astronomical event, but it was rather a supernatural being-an angel. This Angel was sent by God to lead the Magi to the Christ Child and the world to the dawn of a new light of knowledge, as seen in the Troparion (Hymn) of the Holy Nativity: 

"Your birth, O Christ our God, dawned the light of knowledge upon the earth. For by Your birth those who adored stars were taught by a star to worship You, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know You, Orient from on High. O Lord, glory to You."


The word "magi" is the plural of "magos." the name given to one who was a philosopher and astronomer. They were also called kings. In Holy Scripture, "magos" was a customary name given to one who ruled a single city. Melchior is depicted as an old man, with a beard and long gray hair. He brought gold to the King and Master Jesus. Caspar was young and beardless, with a ruddy complexion. His gift was frankincense to God Incarnate. Balthazar, who was bearded and very dark, presented myrrh to the Son of Man, Who would undergo death. The three Magi came from the East, from the neighboring countries of Arabia, Persia, and Ethiopia. They traveled independently with their entourages, then providentially met and joined company. It was not an ordinary star that led them, but a divine angelic power that appeared in the form a Star. Consensus is that the Star appeared in the sky at the Annunciation. Stars move from east to west, but this Star moved from east to southward to Jerusalem. It shone like the sun during the day, guiding the Magi to Bethlehem. They arrived in Jerusalem on the day of the Nativity, but the star hid itself to others would not go to Bethlehem. When they departed the city, the Star reappeared and descended near the earth, showing the exact location of the cave. It is said that the Holy Family remained in the cave for forty days, until just before the Presentation in the Temple. (Source: The Orthodox Calendar Company)

Saints Commemorated on December 25th: The Adoration of the Magi: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar; Commemoration of the shepherds in Bethlehem who were watching their flocks and came to see the Lord; Massacre of Jonah and with him 50 monks and 65 laymen at St. Tryphon of Pechanga Monastery.



The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in Our Incarnate Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God,

+Father George