The Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, in Christian tradition is a star that revealed the birth of Jesus to the three Wise Men (Magi).
According to the bible (Gospel of Matthew) the Magi were "men from the east" who were inspired by the appearence of the Star to travel to Jerusalem.
Christians regard the Christmas Star as a miraculous sign given by God to mark the birth of Christ. Some theologians have claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy, known as the Star Prophecy.
So, what exactly was the Christmas Star? Astronomers have proposed various explanations including a super-nova, a planet, or a comet. It has been speculated that the star could have been an astrological event. Some even claim that the Christmas Star was nothing more than a science fiction story.
Of course, we do know that the Christmas Star did not first appear to the Magi on December 25. Indeed, it was Pope Julius I who selected the 25th of December to celebrate Christmas Day. The reason he chose that day is still very unclear. Although it is possible that it was a way to bring Christian religion to a pagan holiday.
The actual day of the year that the Star may have appeared has been a subject of speculation for years. The Bible, (Luke) records that at the birth of Christ, shepherds were watching over their flocks by night. There were only two specific times in a year when this was done, namely when lambs were being born in the spring or autumn. At other times of the year they were kept safely in their sheep-folds to protect them from wild animals.
The New Testament of the Bible (Revelation 12) tells of the birth of Christ when the constellation Virgo (the woman in the heavens) was clothed with the sun and had the moon at her feet. This would indicate that Jesus was born when the sun and moon were in Virgo. In other words, at the time of the September New Moon, or shortly thereafter.
However, before we conclude that the Christmas Star first appeared on a September day, consider what new scientific research has to say.
The Nativity is generally accepted to have occurred somewhere in the historical time frame between 3B.C. and 1 A.D. This is the period that Australian stargazer and the editor of Sky and Space magazine, Dave Reneke would analyze with complex computer software.
His goal was to chart the exact positions of all celestial bodies and map the night sky. In effect, advanced computer software was used to re-create night over the Holy Land exactly as it appeared more than 2,000 years ago.
Reneke discovered that a bright star really did appear over Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. He said his research showed that: " Venus and Jupiter became very close in the year 2 B.C. and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light" in the night sky.
As for the exact date of the appearance of this beacon of light, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17.
So, if the Christmas Star heralding the birth of Christ did arrive on June 17th, a few changes may be in order here. After all, we have consistently been nearly six months late in spreading our annual holiday cheer and those Christmas in July promotions should really be called after Christmas mark down sales every year.