1 The Christmas Star, and a few words on stars from the East.

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying,

"Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, "In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it was written by the prophet,

"'And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda,
Art not the least among the princes of Juda:
For out of thee shall come a Governor,
That shall rule my people Israel.'"

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also."

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

And when they were departed, behold, and angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child and destroy him."

--From the Gospel according to Matthew, King James Bible

Herod was far from pleased when he learned that the Wise Men had tricked him. In his anger, he ordered every child in Bethlehem under the age of two to be killed. by doing so, he thought to avoid the fulfillment of the prophecy. This day of the massacre was commemorated on December 28 as the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and in times past was considered the unluckiest day in all the Christian calendar.

A star in the East was not such an uncommon omen in the ancient world. There was an earlier god who was worshipped in Bethlehem and elsewhere in that region, the Greek vegetation god Adonis. Adonis, a beautiful youth who dwelt half the year with Persephone in the Underworld and the other half with Aphrodite on Earth, was celebrated with a festival of light. The timing of the festival was presaged by a star in the East, probably the planet Venus, just as Jesus' coming was presaged by an Eastern star.