The Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, is a star in Christian tradition that revealed the birth of Jesus to the magi (or "wise men") and later led them to Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the magi were men "from the east" who were inspired by the appearance of the star to travel to Jerusalem. There they met King Herod of Judea, and asked where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod then asked his advisers where a messiah could be born. They replied Bethlehem, a nearby village, and quoted a prophecy by Micah. While the magi were on their way to Bethlehem, the star appeared again. As they followed the star, it stopped this time above the place where Jesus was born. The magi found Jesus with his mother, paid him homage, worshipped him and gave gifts. They then returned to their "own country".
Many Christians see the star as a miraculous sign given by God to mark the birth of the Christ (or Messiah). Some theologians claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy, known as the Star Prophecy. In modern times, astronomers have proposed various explanations for the star. A nova, a planet, a comet, an occultation and a conjunction [alignment of planets] have all been suggested. The star has also been interpreted as an astrological event.
Many scholars question the historicity of the story and argue that the star was a fiction created by the author of the Gospel of Matthew. While its historicity is in dispute, the tradition of a star has given rise to other Christmas traditions, like topping the Christmas tree with a star. In the Philippines, the bamboo parol ("pah-role"), or star lantern, is the symbol of Christmas.
Works this appears in:
- The Bible, by many interpretations.
- Many Christmas carols:
- "We Three Kings of Orient Are"
- "The First Noel"
- "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
- "Oh Holy Night"
- "Angels We Have Heard On High"
- Sci-Fi short stories sometimes like this star for a Tomato Surprise. For instance, in Arthur C. Clarke's The Star, a Jesuit astronomer is a member of the crew which finds the remains of a peaceful, near-utopian society on a planet that had a total extinction when its sun went supernova. His faith is shaken when he realizes that supernova was the Star of Bethelehem.
Oh, God, there were so many stars you could have used. What was the need to give these people to the fire, that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem?
- The story was adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone (1985), but it has a happier ending.
- In the Christmas story The Littlest Angel, the littlest angel's gift to the Child Jesus (a box he had on Earth, containing the sort of small things that are treasures to a very young boy — a butterfly, a bird's egg, two stones, and the collar that had been his dog's) is turned into the Star of Bethlehem. You can read it here.note
- The VeggieTales movie The Star of Christmas had wacky hijinks revolving around an ancient artifact "The Star of Christmas" representing the Star of Bethlehem.
- The Star of Bethlehem appears in A Certain Magical Index Volume 22 as an Ominous Floating Castle summoned by Fiamma of the Right.
- A proverbial Star of Bethlehem appears at William's Christ-like birth in The X-Files episode "Existence".
- In a pre-Crisis Superboy/Legion story, the Teen Of Steel wants to use his pals' advanced tech to finally locate the Star. Skeptical Brainiac 5 nonetheless aids the search, but all his efforts reveal is a planet full of a species of alien in desperate need of help. Though they never find the Star, Superboy decides that a planet in need of aid that they would never have found but for the search is the same thing as a star that seemingly never existed.
- In the Chris de Burgh song A Spaceman Came Travelling, the star turns out to be the spacecraft of the alien spaceman, parked over Bethlehem.
And over a village he halted his craft'And it hung there just like a star, just like a star....
- Appears in Monty Python's Life of Brian. The magi come to the stable where Brian was born, rather than the one Jesus was born in (the one next to it.)
- A joke: A teenaged girl and her mother are at the doctor's for some unexplained weight gain and mood swings. The mother virulently swears her daughter behaves in every way a respectable young lady should, and thus cannot explain these symptoms. The doctor looks at them for a moment, then gets up and looks out the window.
What are you doing, doctor?The last time this sort of thing happened, a star appeared in the daytime, and then three men on camels showed up with expensive gifts!
- Invoked as a joke in the Family Guy episode "Jesus, Mary and Joseph" where the three wise men, played by Cleveland, Quagmire and Joe, are following the star... only to discover it has air traffic lights.
Quagmire: Oh my god, it IS a f***ing plane!!
Joe: We are three wise men! We came here following a star!Joseph!Peter: Those two statements contradict each other.
- Eventually, they make their way to Betlehem, presumably following the actual Star, where they find Joseph and an expecting Mary.
- Spike Milligan recollected being sent out on a hazardous night trek into the front lines in late December 1942. Arousing the ire of the Sergeant Rock who had demanded silent movement (their job was to repair a break in a phone line caused by German mortar fire), one of Milligan's buddies drew attention to a star-shell illuminating the night sky above them. Milligan quipped that this meant a child had been born in Bethlehem. Then two more star-shells lit up the night. Milligan digested this and added "She's had triplets. That wasn't in the script."
- One Marvel Comic featuring Ghost Rider seemed to have this occurring in modern times, on Christmas Eve, no less, accompanied by several familiar scenes right out of the Bible. Turns out it was just the Miracle Man messing around with his powers.
- In Star in the Night, a Setting Update of the Nativity story to 1945, the star is the electronic star atop the Star Auto Court. It lures three cowboys who just happen to be bearing gifts to the auto court, where a young man named Jose and his pregnant wife Maria have arrived...
- 3 Godfathers involves three bank robbers who wind up stuck with a newborn baby to take care of in the desert. One of the three notes that it's Christmas Eve, and compares the three of them to the Three Wise Men. Then he points out an actual star in the sky over the town they need to get to—which is called New Jerusalem.