The star that heralded Jesus’ birth, bright as it appeared, was to be obscured by the one to whom it pointed – the Messiah himself. Here we also see a parallel with John the Baptist. As Christ affirmed, “He was a burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35), but John nevertheless came only as a witness because “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:8-9). Once Jesus’ ministry began, John’s “light” was dimmed by the rising of his successor. As John himself said using this very analogy, “He must wax, but I must wane” (John 3:30). But like the heavenly star that also preceded the Messiah’s birth, John the Baptist’s job was fully accomplished in the short but intense work which God intended for him. Both were powerful witnesses to the coming of the Messiah.
How does this apply to us? Although we may not live in the age which saw a heavenly light or a great prophetic “light” like John the Baptist pointing to Christ, the apostle Peter reminds us that “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). That “morning star” is Christ himself (Revelation 22:16); and the “prophetic message” is not so much all of prophecy as it is the prophetic message regarding the meaning and purpose of the coming of Christ.
The star of the nativity, the “lamp” of John the Baptist, and the “light shining in a dark place” were different announcements made available to different groups of people: the first to only a select few, the second to all who heard John, the third to all who come in contact with the word of God throughout the whole world. The three forms of announcement also increased in the level of understanding they provided those to whom they were given. Bright as the heavenly star may have appeared, powerful as John’s testimony may have been, we can be thankful that the announcement that has come to us is the fullest, clearest and most profound light of all.