Highlights for January

As heavenly bodies converge, many ask: Is the Star of Bethlehem making a comeback?

The painting, “Adoration of the Magi,” by Giotto, in Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy shows the Star of Bethlehem as a comet. Photo/Wikiart.org

By Eric M. Vanden Eykel
On Dec. 21, Jupiter and Saturn crossed paths in the night’s sky and for a brief moment, they appearws to shine together as one body. While planetary conjunctions like this are not everyday events, they also are not particularly rare.

This year’s conjunction is different for at least two reasons. The first is the degree to which the two planets will be aligned. According to experts, they appeared closer during this conjunction than they have in nearly eight centuries and also brighter.

But the second factor, and the one that has thrust this event into the spotlight, is that it occured on the winter solstice, just before the Christmas holiday. The timing has led to a speculation whether this could be the same astronomical event that the Bible reports led the wise men to Joseph, Mary and the newly born Jesus — the Star of Bethlehem.

As a scholar of early Christian literature writing a book on the three wise men, I argue that this planetary conjunction is likely not the fabled Star of Bethlehem. The biblical story of the star is intended to convey theological rather than historical or astronomical truths.

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Why I still watch ‘Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown’

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown was featured on 2015 US postage stamps

By Pamela A. Lewis
Like many Americans of my generation, I have been a big fan of “Peanuts,” the cartoon created by the late Charles Schulz. As a kid, I impatiently awaited the delivery of the Sunday papers so I could turn immediately to the page where Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and their motley group of friends held court and made me and my parents laugh at their amusing adventures and experiences.

I loved each of the main characters because of the way Schulz designed their physical characteristics: Lucy’s big gaping mouth that either bossed others or was Snoopy’s target for one of his dreaded sloppy wet “kisses”; Charlie Brown with his nearly bald pate and woe-is-me expression; or the rumpled Pig Pen, who was eternally surrounded in a cloud of dust. By some mysterious alchemy, Schulz gave his characters personalities that were at turns irritating and endearing.

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