The night I lost the moon

December 1, 2008. Driving home from work, I glanced at the twilight sky and saw what I assumed were two distant airplanes flying next to a cresent moon. Several moments later I looked again, and the “airplanes” were still in the same position. Huh?! I realized that the lights were not planes, but either stars or planets. Probably planets. Bright planets.

As an astonomer I’m pretty much clueless. Sun. Moon. Big Dipper. Milky Way. After that, my confidence at identifying anything astronomical takes a nose dive.  That’s why what I was seeing was remarkable — not that I could identify what I saw, but just that I even noticed.

I later learned that the two planets were Jupiter and Venus, and that the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the moon will not be this dramatic again for another 40 years or so.

A couple weeks later as I was channel surfing, I came across an engaging documentary about the star of Bethlehem.

Which got me to thinking.

Why, I wonder, did God choose to announce the birth of Jesus to the wise men with a celestial sign?

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