The Great Conjunction - 12/21/2020
"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned." Isaiah 60:1
Tonight, in the southwestern sky, just after twilight, if you looked up you would see a sight that has not been observable for nearly 800 years: the great conjunction, or alignment, of the two largest planets in our Solar System, Jupiter and Saturn. The effect of this alignment is to create what appears to be one very bright star, which astronomers believe may have been "the star of Bethlehem" mentioned in the Bible as leading the wise men to the baby Jesus.
I was very excited to see this phenomenon. I was also very emotional, thinking about the last time this was visible, in 1226. And a similar alignment will not be visible again until 2040, but not nearly as bright because the planets will not be so close together. I couldn't stop wondering what it must have felt like to see the star over Bethlehem. It would have been different from anything they had ever seen in the sky, and because there was no light pollution until the 20th century, it would have been very easy to spot in the dark sky over the Holy Land. I was driving over some of my usual routes through the desert tonight, and it was very dark as much of Tucson is, by design. It occurred to me that the darker the sky, the brighter the star appears.
I thought quite a bit about our current situation in 2020, and how badly we need a beacon of hope like this one. It has been a long and difficult year, filled with sadness and death, and we are only just now starting to see a ray of light with the first vaccines being delivered last week. With these comes the first glimmer of hope that we may be able to get this terrible Pandemic under control. How fitting that it occurred within one week of the arrival of the conjunction. In the Bible, the star was presented as a sign of hope: "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10. The news of two vaccines that appear to be effective is indeed good tidings of great joy.
The Bible also tells us to "Fear not." For many of us, this year has been full of fear: the fear of leaving the house, seeing other people, going shopping, of being around others anywhere at all - all because of our fear of this extremely contagious virus. A certain amount of fear is good, because it leads us to take steps to protect ourselves, to wear masks, to stay six feet away from others, to sanitize our hands. But the time is coming when this dark period will be at an end. We can see the light that gives us hope, that this darkness will be turned to light. We are not out of the woods yet, but the light has dawned and we are moving forward now. "Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalms 30:5.
Fear not - morning is coming.