“. . . for unto us a child is born” or what constitutes a miracle?

Gold, frankincense, myrrh. Three wise men from the Orient on camels followed a star that led them to a manger in Jerusalem. There, a newborn lay in the arms of his virgin mother surrounded by animals – most likely cows, sheep, and a donkey.

RH-Wisemen2We do not know definitely where the men came from or even if they were only three. Most Biblical scholars say they would have come from Persia (Iran) and been followers of Zoroastrianism. As wise men, i.e. magi, they would have been of an educated class steeped in the belief that a person of holy origin was on his way. It was a widespread belief of the time. People were on the alert.

Since only three gifts were mentioned – glorious as they were! – it is usually assumed only three men came to the manger even though more learned men would have been in the region and vigilant for the arrival of a baby of the highest importance.

1-icon-of-the-nativity-juliet-venterShepherds also came to the manger, but they were from nearby fields where they were “keeping watch over their sheep by night.” An angel appeared to them and told them not to be afraid, but instead to rejoice for “This day in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is the messiah, the Lord.”

The shepherds went to Jerusalem where they found a babe lying in a manger, just as the angels told them they would.

I sense a timing issue. The shepherds were nearby, but for the wise men to arrive while Jesus was still in the manger, they either started following the star before he was born, or were, in fact, just over in the next village, or were beamed up. Given the appearance of angels, beaming up seems possible, as in “Beam me up, Scotty.”

It is a beautiful story of hope and wonder, one laden with miracles.

One star guided the way of three men 2000 years ago in a cosmos of more than 100 billion galaxies with an estimated 300 billion stars in the Milky Way alone, which is a relatively small galaxy but the one from which we can observe a universe with a radius of 13.7 billion light years expanding at an accelerating rate of 46 miles per second per megaparsec* and laden with black holes that attract anything near them into them, including galaxies, to potentially parallel cosmos that we cannot see but that, like ours, move through folding time warps and space twists, all of which is made of atoms that mimic really wild solar systems but are too infinitesimal to measure, further complicated by that atoms behave in uncertain ways influenced by the expectations of their observers and that atoms are made of even smaller elements called hadrons that are made of quarks that are divided into categories named up, down, strange, bottom, top, and charm, which may indicate quarks are made of even smaller elements, and in any case we know that quarks have been here since the beginning of everything 13.8 billion years ago when a single point exploded in a big bang and, from quarks to cosmos, all of it is held together by unseen forces named the strong force and the weak force that hold quarks together to make neutrons and protons that make atom nuclei, while magnetic and gravitation forces hold the earth together and hold humans on it.

Beaming up is a piece of cake in comparison.


Yet, so far as we know the cosmos doesn’t deal with human feelings of hope, joy, fear, guilt, or wonder. It does not ponder itself except possibly through entities like us, and surely it has no need for miracles, being itself beyond comprehension.

It is we who require miracles and long for what is just beyond our comprehension. Just beyond. We like our miracles guiding star-size, manger-size, angel-size, virgin-birth size. We like our miracles to bring joy and create wonder. That is an observable truth, and it is a fine truth, and it is a start. We should all be guided more often by the stars.


*A megaparsec is the distance of 3 million light years. Hence, every distance of 3 million light years in the cosmos expands by approximately 46 miles every second.