Whether it was a gust of wind or the bright moonlight, something had awakened me. Dawn was yet another three hours away as I slipped silently out of my hammock and gazed up at the perfectly clear night sky. Involutarily, I caught my breath at the scene before me--there was the waning gibbous moon perched upon Orion's left shoulder.
There are times in everyone's life when they abruptly realize how magnificent is God's creation and how small one is in comparision. This was one of those moments for me.
It was the end of October and I was there in the mountains having traveled by trike simply because I wanted to be alone for a couple of days before the season ended. The month had begun with the death of my father followed by frenetic trips to Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida. I was tired in mind and body but mostly tired of being around people. And in that comfortable selfishness, it was if God tapped me awake to view His majesty and so to be reminded of His care and love not only for me but for all those from whom I was trying to escape.
Of all the constellations, Orion is the most singular; it is the most brilliant of all and is visible from both the northern and southern hemispheres. Its image has been found carved on prehistoric mammoth ivory and in Egyptian tombs. From ancient times, men have looked aloft and pondered its special significance.
The ancient Babylonia star catalogues named Orion "The Heavenly Shepherd" or the "True Shepherd of God". In the ancient Akkadian tongue he is know as Ur-ana, the Light of Heaven. In the Denderah Zodia, his name is given as Ha-ga-t, which means This is He Who Triumphs and In ancient Hebrew, the meaning of his name is Hope,Coming Forth as Light.
Like the ancients, we, too, look aloft and ask in wonder, "Who is this?" The names of his stars give us the answer.
The brightest, (in the left foot) is named Rigel, which means the foot that crusheth. The next, (in his right shoulder), Betelgeuse, means the coming of the branch. The third brightest (in the left shoulder) is called Bellatrix, which means swiftly conquering and quickly coming. The three stars of Orion's belt are: Mintaka--bound, Alnilam--pearl of great price, and Alnitak--measures justly and the wounded one. Saiph, (in the right leg) completes the picture, bruised.
Thus is pictured "the Light of the world." His left foot is placed significantly on the head of the enemy. He is girded with a glorious cord studded with three brilliant stars; from this belt hangs a sharp sword. In his right hand he lifts on high his mighty club; while in his left he holds forth the token of his victory--the head and skin of the "roaring lion."
This is God's heavenly portrait of His ancient promise of The Coming Prince, the Redeemer, the One bruised for our transgressions and victorous over our enemy, that is, Jesus Christ the Lord.
This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour over two thousand years ago, let us be mindful that the tale and the promise is yet more ancient still.
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the earth." -Psalm 19:1-4