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Star shone brightly over Bethlehem

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

‘Tis the season when the Christian world remembers a star that shone brightly over a manger at Bethlehem, pointing the way for wise men from the east to pay homage to the newborn Jesus (Matthew 2).

Over the centuries there have been many efforts (most creatively far-fetched) to explain how a star moved through the sky. By attempting to make logical what Matthew depicts as mysterious, these explanations fall short. Faith requires no explanation to grasp that the heavens are telling forth the glory of God.

I was reminded of Matthew’s star this week while reading about the unmanned space probe Voyager I, launched in 1977 and still traveling through outer space. Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, wrote an inspiring and poetic account (“Voyager Heads for the Stars,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 10-11) telling how this little space craft will soon leave our solar system behind, becoming the first man-made object ever to travel into the rest of the Milky Way.

Krauss suggests the Voyager I could conceivably travel for billions of years, even outlasting the future of humanity, eventually becoming a “metal fossil” to be discovered and decoded by other life forms.

Unfortunately a very fine article was spoiled by Mr. Krauss’s final sentence which exposed the writer’s own worldview while cheapening the Jewish and Christian understanding of creation. Krauss wrote that Voyager I will “deliver simple greetings in hundreds of dialects from our species — perhaps giving the impression that we knew we were lucky to exist for a brief time on this cosmic speck, instead of suffering under the solipsistic notion that we somehow reigned supreme in a universe created for us.”

When Krauss slips into his silly notion that humanity is here by pure, dumb luck, he descends into a hopeless faith in randomness. Then he accuses those of Jewish and Christian background of self-centeredness because they profess that God created the heavens and the Earth and made humankind a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8). Frankly, there is no greater form of self-centeredness than Krauss’s claim that we live on this cosmic speck by chance with no Creator, no creation and no king but ourselves.

Christianity and Judaism are humble religions claiming that God made humankind from simple dirt, humus. Faithful followers of Jesus know that only in losing life does one gain life, which is as far as one can get from solipsism. Both Christianity and Judaism teach and exemplify self-giving.

With Krauss, I celebrate Voyager’s odyssey through space and time, but part ways with him in his sophomoric understanding of faith. The Judeo-Christian claim is that no matter how many trillions of miles Voyager I sails, that technological marvel can never escape the God’s creation. Such a faith claim — far from egoism — makes the believer feel very humble, seeing the stars — for Christians, even the ones over Bethlehem — quite differently.

Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at