The Star of Christmas 24 December, 2010

The BBC should be praised for showing ‘The Nativity’ in the week before Christmas (you may still be able to catch it on BBC iPlayer). A straightforward and beautiful retelling of the Christmas story, it was based on meticulous research, in order to give the greatest possible credibility to the traditional account. The writer opted for the idea that the Star of Bethlehem was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which is plausible enough (see the astronomical information here and my summary of the symbolism at Epiphany 2008). But the real star of Bethlehem is of course the Child. When the adult Jesus says to his followers, ‘Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter into it’ (Mk 10:15), and when he welcomes children and treats them with respect, he changes the way childhood is perceived. Normally children are told to grow up and become like adults, not the other way around. Childhood is an undeveloped stage, but in some ways it also represents a more perfect stage, when we can see more completely what it is simply to be human. Until Mary Immaculate, no one had lived that human existence perfectly, but in her and in her newborn Child we see what it is to receive one’s being straight from the hand of God and to show forth what it is to be loved and to love.

Picture by Rose-Marie Caldecott.