I remember reading about Johannes Kepler in High School and know he was a smarter man than me. But of course that’s not hard to imagine especially when it comes to math and science. But I came across his name again while studying for my sermon this week. Indeed, Kepler was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer. You may not know this, but he was also a serious minded man of faith and follower of Christ. While Kepler was credited in discovering new planetary movements and even today has departments of NASA named after him, he also gave serious effort to finding of the Star mentioned in Matthew 2:2. This was the Star that led the Biblical Wiseman to Bethlehem on their search for the birth of Jesus. Like Galileo, Newton, and other brilliant scientist of old, Kepler didn’t take the path of many modern scientist who choose to reason away the divine. He didn’t hold that science explains away God; but rather that science was just another tool to explore the magnitude of God and figure out this great creation of God we call the cosmos.
Kepler theorized about the planet Jupiter in particular, along with Venus and Saturn at various stages lining up and culminating in the Pisces Constellation. Apparently this only happens about every 800 years or so. It was this conjuncture of about 7 B.C. that Kepler reasoned just might be the star that Matthew referred to in connection with the Magi. Was Kepler right? I don’t know. It could have been this constellation connection or it could have been something else completely and exclusively divine in origin. But what is clear from this study of Kepler is that you don’t have to check your brain at the door to follow Christ. In our modern age of science and reason it’s easy to relegate God to the back seat as a household myth of which you can leave and take at will. But that was not the case for these early giants of the faith and pioneers of facts. To them, faith and science were not exclusive of each other. The scientific theory was truly a path of exploration of what God has already done. It all reminds me not only of the men in Matthew chapter 2 who pursued Christ, but of an expression I heard a number of years ago that simply read; “Wise men still seek Christ today.”
So my challenge as we approach the cradle of Christ is for everyone. It is for the believer and the non-believer. It is for the Atheist and the Agnostic. It is for the Fundamentalist and the frustrated. It is for the Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Skeptic, and Scientist. My challenge is to reexamine what we think we know about that Jesus born 2000 years ago. I’m not pointing to Religion, but to Jesus Himself. Do you know the Jesus of Matthew? I challenge you to investigate the claims of Christ this season with as much tenacity as Kepler did. If you do, it just might be the best Christmas present you’ve ever given yourself.
I’ve included a similar clip to this one before. But here again are the astronauts of Apollo 8 reading the account of Genesis on Christmas Eve 1968.
Enjoy and Merry Christmas