21 And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word.
(3 Nephi 1:21)
Five years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Samuel the Lamanite prophesied of His birth and described a number of unmistakeable signs that would mark the time of His birth and His death. The signs of His birth would all occur in the sky and would involve light. The signs of His death would occur on the earth and would include thick darkness. One of these signs was also visible in the Middle East, although only a few people knew to look for it. In Samuel’s words: “There shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld” (Helaman 14:5).
As we read in the passage above, this prophecy was literally fulfilled. Along with the other signs in the heavens, the people noted the appearance of the new star as a sign of the Savior’s birth.
Thousands of years earlier, the prophet Balaam had used the symbol of a star in a Messianic prophecy. “There shall come a Star out of Jacob,” he said, “and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). After the death of the Savior, the apostle John quoted Him as saying, “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (Revelation 22:16).
From our perspective on earth, a star looks like a point of light in a dark sky. Therefore, it serves as a useful point of orientation for a traveler. It’s not hard to imagine the wise men using the star as a reference point as they traveled from the east toward Jerusalem in search of the newborn king. By the same token, the Savior represents a point of light which contrasts with the darkness around us and which beckons us in a clear direction. If we are looking for the light, we will see it, and it will provide direction for us as we navigate through the difficulties of life.
Several years ago, in a BYU Idaho devotional address, Sue Clark taught that the symbolism of the star can be useful in goal-setting: “As you make…changes and set out on [a] new course, of one thing you must be certain. That is that you are on the true path…. You need to be sure that you have the right guide: one that lights the way clearly.” She pointed out that the apostle Peter had talked about the star (the light of the Savior) shining in our hearts:
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19).
Sister Clark counseled these students:
Believe in Christ and in His power to purify your hearts through the application of the Atonement to forgive you of sin so that the day star, the Savior of the World, the bright and morning star, may arise in your hearts and be your guide as you walk the path of life. If you do that, you will begin this year with much, much more than New Year’s resolutions. You will walk the true path (“The Star, the Savior, and Your Heart,” BYU Idaho Devotional Address, 10 January 2006).
Today, I will seek to receive and follow the light of Christ in my heart. I will remember that His light is available to me and that it can provide guidance to help me navigate through the darkness in the world around me. I will be grateful for the symbolism of the star: shining in darkness and providing a reliable point of reference for a traveler who wants to set and follow goals that are on the “true path.”