Monday, December 28, 2020

Epiphany: Meh...

The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that happened right before Christmas had some people in a tizzy. Others not so much. I am firmly in Camp Tizzy. I had my camera and tripod set up looking toward the southwest sky. Because I live in a decent-sized city, I had to deal with light pollution in general, and my across-the-street neighbors have blue icicle lights hanging across the front of their house. I'm fine with the blue lights, but they did cast an interesting light. I took dozens of photos of these two small points of light, closer together than they had been seen at night in 800 years.

In 1226, when a conjunction this close was last seen at night (which means everyone can actually see it), Francis of Assisi was still alive (he died in October 1226). Notre Dame de Paris was still under construction, and the roof structure had just been redesigned using that latest architectural innovation, the rib vault. Frederick II was the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry III was King of England, and Louis VIII was King of France.

I was smitten.
Photo by Lynn Miller. You are welcome to use it, but please give credit. 

And then I read comments by friends (and their friends) on social media pooh-poohing the idea that this might have been the "Christmas Star."

"Who would travel to see that?"

"The Christmas star looked like this!" (accompanied by a piece of clip art that included a cruciform star casting its beams in the four cardinal directions)

"I wasn't impressed."

"God would do better than that."

Now, I don't know exactly what the Christmas star was (planetary conjunction? supernova? something else entirely?), but it made me stop and think about "spectacle" and the Christmas story. First, if the magi were students of the stars, maybe this is exactly the kind of occurrence for which they would have traveled to get a better view. Though Jupiter and Saturn meet about every 20 years, the next conjunction that comes close to this one is in 2080. Sixty years from now. How many of us will still be here? Maybe this is more special than it looks.

And I have to think that something like that was the sentiment of the magi when they showed up with their extravagant gifts and the recipient was the infant son of a Jewish peasant couple. This has to be more special than it looks. And, of course, for those of us who follow Jesus, it is. What looks to the world like any set of parents and their baby is God's message of love and salvation to and for the world. And the message wears diapers and spits up. Who would travel to see that?

Epiphany means manifestation, something that embodies something else, especially a theory or abstract idea/ Jesus is the manifestation of Emmanuel, God with us. But you could be forgiven if you didn't get that right away. The story of Epiphany is the story of dreamers. Of people who follow stars and see royalty in babies. Nothing meh about that.

For NASA's information on the Great Conjunction, click here.

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