The Many Names of the Christ Child: Bright Morning Star
The Many Names of the Christ Child
“The Bright Morning Star”
Matthew 2:1-12 2 Peter 1:18-21 Revelation 22:12-16
(McMinnville FUMC, 1/4/09)
The Bible offers many names to help us understand who Jesus is. We have looked at a few of these names during the Advent-Christmas season.
Isaiah 9 taught us that he would be called, “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father” and “Prince of Peace.”
Then in Isaiah 7 and again in Matthew 1, we are told that he will be called, “Emmanuel” which means “God with us.”
Today is often called Epiphany Sunday because it is the closest Sunday to January 6 which is Epiphany. Many of us are familiar with that word Epiphany. We sometimes refer to having experienced an Epiphany which basically means we had one of those “Ah ha” moments. Old cartoons demonstrated those “Ah ha,” “Epiphany” moments with a light bulb going off over the characters head.
In the church we associate Epiphany with the Wise Men who came and visited the Christ Child. They had an “ah ha” moment when they say the baby Jesus.
Do you recall what it was that led the “Wise Men” to Jesus? It was a star.
In Revelation 22:16 we have one of the most interesting names given to Jesus. Jesus calls himself, “the bight morning star.” This was to fulfill a prophecy, given all the way back in the Old Testament by the prophet Balaam, who said, "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel," (Numbers 24:17).
Notice that Jesus did not refer to himself as a “star.” Instead he called himself, “the bright morning star.” What is “the Morning Star?”
In Biblical times and in early astronomy the Morning Star was the brightest star a person saw in the sky, just before daylight.
Today we know that this "bright morning star," is actually not a star at all. Instead it is the planet Venus as it appears before sunrise in the western sky. However many still refer to it as “the morning star.”
Why would Jesus refer to himself as “The Bright Morning Star?” Perhaps on this first Sunday of a new year, on Epiphany Sunday we should try to answer this.
The wise men used a star as a point of reference. They were trying to find a certain place and a certain person.
For thousands of years mariners and travelers have used the stars as a guide; as a point of reference.
Jesus was wanting us to understand that he is our point of reference. Do we need help in knowing what to do? What direction to take? What decision to make? Just as the wise men followed a star, just as that bright morning star pointed travelers the way west, Jesus is our point of reference. Notice that he is not “a” point of reference. He is the point of reference.
Perhaps that is another point was trying to make. He is not just a star among many stars; he is unique. There is no one else like him.
We have already said that the morning star is unique in that it is not a star at all. It is a planet, Venus. Some say that Venus is unique among the planets of our solar system. It is not the closest planet to our sun yet it is the hottest. But there is something even more unique about this planet. If we could somehow look down on all of the planets in our solar system from above they would all be turning in a counter clock wise direction. That is all of them except Venus which turns in a clock wise position.
Jesus is unique. There is no one else like him. He is the only one who can be our true point of reference.
But still there must be more as to why our Savoir wanted to describe Himself as the bright morning star.
What does the “morning star” do day after day?
We know that as Venus arises in the western sky around 4:00 am, soon the birds will begin to sing. Shortly after that, in the eastern sky, the sun will begin to rise.
The bright morning star represents the promise of a new day, it indicates that something better is coming. Today, most people in the world have no hope for the future. Most people feel like they are in a rat race, and the rats are winning! Thoughtful people reflect on life and ask: What is the point of it all!? Why are we here? What’s the point? What’s the meaning of life?
It is as if all humanity is being swallowed up in darkness, but on the horizon we see the bright morning star. It tells us that something better is coming; that our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ will come again!
I like the way William D. Watley, pastor of St. James A.M.E. Church in Newark, New Jersey expressed it. In a sermon he said:
We usually think of stars as nighttime luminaries, but the morning star announces the beginning of a new day. Who can testify that “since I met Jesus, it’s a new day now?” I used to be bound by the devil, but since I met Jesus, it’s a new day now. I used to have low self-esteem and was in a constant self-destruct mode, but since I met Jesus, it’s a new day now. I’ve put down my blues guitar and picked up a tambourine of praise. It’s a new day now. People and things that used to upset me don’t bother me anymore. It’s a new day now. Fear that used to paralyze me and guilt that used to beat me up have lost their hold upon me. It’s a new day now. Glory, glory hallelujah since I laid my burden down—it’s a new day now. (William D. Watley, Exalting the Names of Jesus (Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 2002), 94.)
Jesus is the bright morning star because in him there is newness. Every day has the potential of being new. In him, we can always start fresh!
This is wonderful but still there is more to the story. The morning star proclaimed a new day. But in days gone by, the new day came to an end. Slowly the sky turned dim and some there was darkness. Who knows how many marineers and children dreaded the unknown that often accompanied the darkness. At they looked to the sky and instead of the “Morning Star” they saw “the Evening Star.” It appear for just a short time to offer assurance through what was unseen until once again there was the morning star. Guess what? The same morning star is also the evening star.
This is our Jesus! When life is dark, he is there to guide us. When we come to the end of our journey and our day here on earth is done, he continues to be our reference point, leading us into a new day with him.
The Lily of the Valley
by Charles W Fry and William S Hays
I have found a friend in Jesus, He's everything to me,
He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He's my comfort, in trouble He's my stay;
He tells me every care on Him to roll.
He's the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
He all my grief has taken, and all my sorrows borne;
In temptation He's my strong and mighty tower;
I have all for Him forsaken, and all my idols torn
From my heart and now He keeps me by His power.
Though all the world forsake me, and Satan tempt me sore,
Through Jesus I shall safely reach the goal.
He will never, never leave me, nor yet forsake me here,
While I live by faith and do His blessèd will;
A wall of fire about me, I've nothing now to fear,
From His manna He my hungry soul shall fill.
Then sweeping up to glory to see His blessèd face,
Where the rivers of delight shall ever roll.