I keep having the same conversation more and more frequently. I’ll be chatting with a high school student about how things are going in their life, and out of nowhere, the question comes up, “Mrs. Crowder, what’s your sign?” Typically, I like to play dumb and ask them what they mean, and they begin to tell me about how they love learning about people’s star signs and if they are a Virgo or Taurus, and what that might mean for their relationships. I’ll share my birthdate, and they get wide eyes, nod their head, and exclaim, “That makes SO much sense!”
There is a temptation for me to quickly shut them down, condemn, and discipline them on such superstitious beliefs; yet, each of these conversations is rooted in a desire to learn more about me. There is a deep hunger for understanding what is happening in the world around us. 2020 saw a 5-year peak in Google searches for “birth chart” and “astrology.” People are searching for connection, direction, and hope in a troubled world, and we can use their star-shaped questions to point them to the shape of the cross.
People of Martin Luther’s day also struggled with these questions. There was no lack of superstitious signs and curiosities during the 16th century. Martin Luther’s collaborator, Philip Melanchthon, was one of the most intelligent people of his day. But his day also included the study of astrology. Melanchthon found comfort that God had ordered the universe, that the stars were a constant measurable source of information.
People in the Bible also looked to the stars. In the beginning, God set the stars to give order to his creation, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years’” (Gen 1:14). At God’s command, Abram looked to the stars to see the majesty of God’s covenant promise.
“He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (Gen 15:5). The promise of Abram was this descendant or seed that would be a blessing to the whole world (Gen 12:2-3). The stars were pointing to Christ.
The stars not only played an important role in pointing Old Testament believers to Jesus, but they also had a part to play in the birth of Jesus. Wise men from the east saw a star and followed it in hopes of finding a king. But they didn’t find all they were seeking in the stars. The wise men needed additional guidance to help them understand where to find what they were seeking. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’” (Matt 2:1-2). I am impressed with how close these wise men got! But to truly know God, they needed something more than the stars. They needed the Word of God. It was the chief priests and the scribes that pointed to Scripture, to Micah 5:2, recorded over 700 years before Jesus’ birth:
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
Luther preached, “Why did not the star take the Wise Men straight to Bethlehem without any necessity of consulting the Scriptures? Because God wanted to teach us that we should follow the Scriptures and not our own murky ideas.”
Stars don’t answer the most critical questions. They can lead us to our creator’s beautiful design, but not directly to our Savior. Instead of focusing on ourselves, we can redirect our gaze to Christ and who we are in him because of what he has accomplished for us on the cross.
Are you seeking knowledge of who you are? King David wrote about those who are broken and find help in our Lord: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Ps 147:2-3). Look to the word of God in Christ Jesus. When the church was under attack and seeking comfort during persecution, God provided a word of hope in the Book of Revelation. Here, we see the answer that Jesus wins. He has accomplished our salvation. We look to Jesus Christ, who defeated sin, death, and hell. At the closing of the book, John records these powerful words: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Rev 22:16).
When we seek solace in the stars, remember that our true hope and comfort comes through the bright morning star, Jesus Christ.