A light-year is the equivalent distance that light travels in one year, which is about 9,460,000,000,000 kilometers (or 5,880,000,000,000 miles). When we see the night sky we are literally viewing a point in time from the past, we are viewing history. That celestial object we see no longer exists in that configuration by the time our eyes receive its light here on Earth.
When I was teaching the children in our ward (congregation) many years ago, I told them how impressive it was that God sent a new star to herald Jesus’ birth. Impressive because it didn’t matter how many mistakes humans had made from our first parents down to the time of Mary & Joseph — Jesus was still born at the same time as when a star’s new light would be received on the Earth from light-years away.
Heavenly Father knew ages in advance when Jesus’ birth would occur, so that a star would be created bright enough to be viewed by travelers wishing to see the newborn baby.
I have since read other theories that it was a bright planet, which to me, isn’t as impressive. And frankly, reading about bright planets in the glow of the rising sun almost stopped me from writing this article. However, I turned to the Book of Mormon to literally get a second witness of this celestial event. In Helaman Chapter 14, we read:
“3 And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
4 Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.
5 And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.”
This reads that there were “great lights”, plural, in verse 3. And then in verse 5, “a new star shall arise” and “this also shall be a sign unto you”. Does this mean there’s was more going on in the sky than just a new star?
Regardless of which theory or scripture you choose to over analyze, the result is the same. There was a heavenly wonder occurring in the night sky. Those wonders in the sky follow laws of physics and formulas of orbital mechanics that humans are still trying to understand.
However, God understands those laws and adheres to them. And some type of heavenly alarm clock was created, possibly before the Earth was created, to tell us, frail humans, that the world was changing … to tell us that the Plan of Salvation was still in play in the cosmos and that Jesus was fulfilling His royal calling.
My husband has visited the Holy Land, and researchers believe that the stable we’ve heard so much about was a limestone cave and not a wood barn depicted in so many books and movies.
Different cultures celebrate the arrival of the three wise men the first week of January. Some believe/think they didn’t arrive to see Jesus until He was a toddler.
Regardless of which modern theory or Hollywood depiction you apply to the details of ancient history, the end result is the same.
The Plan of Salvation to save us from our mistakes and return us to live with our Heavenly Father is still “in play” in the cosmos. Jesus is fulfilling His royal calling to bring us hope and salvation and to return and report that progress to our Heavenly Father.
God still knows the end from the beginning – in spite of any errors we may make, and He understands the laws of physics far better than we do. And I still think that Heavenly lights in the night sky to herald a distinct event on Earth, is one of the coolest miracles in the scriptures.
Molly A. Kerr
Molly is on a life long quest to figure herself out. Born to be and educated as an aerospace engineer she is also blessed to be a wife and a mom of two in the present, previously served as a full-time missionary, is consistently called to teach the youth in her ward, is eagerly though slowly doing home improvement as money and time allow, all while gradually learning how to be herself and find peace and balance somewhere in between. Despite her attempts to make “the right” decisions in her life, she has learned to deal with some unexpected challenges over the last two decades. Total tornadoes, really. What she has discovered is that her career has taught her a lot about the Gospel and being a better mother, and the Gospel, when applied to challenges at the office, has made her a better professional. She has also learned that it is okay to be herself, and God still loves (and forgives) her for it.