When Rick Larson of College Station, Texas, decorated his lawn with Magi figures for Christmas, he didn't stop there. The Magi followed a star so he put a light in a tree to represent it.
Most people would have been content with their display and enjoyed the holiday, but not Larson. He became curious about the star and why did the Bible say it was so bright and did it really move?
After 10 years of research, including duplicating the sky as it appeared more than 2,000 years ago, Larson discovered what the star was, why it moved and that its path in the heavens corresponded with Scripture to declare Christ's birth.
A business law attorney and college professor at Texas A&M University, Larson has spoken worldwide about his findings and made a DVD about them. Part lecture and part planetarium scenes, "The Star of Bethlehem" goes back in time to show what was going on in the heavens when Christ was born and when he died.
Larson examines the account of the visit of the Magi in the Bible's book of Matthew Chapter 2 to note nine qualities that the star must possess to be considered the biblical star of Bethlehem.
Eliminating novas, shooting stars and comets, Larson concludes that the star is the planet Jupiter. One of his discoveries shows how Jupiter, known as the King Planet, comes into close proximity with Regulus, the king star, creating a bright image in September 3 BC, about the time of the Jewish new year.
Jupiter appears to stop and change course during this time. Astronomers call this optical effect retrograde motion because stargazers are observing the sky from another moving platform - the Earth. Jupiter appears to make third conjunctions with Regulus, forming a halo with the star, symbolic of a coronation.
Larson also demystifies an account in Revelation that he believes proclaims Christ's birth.
Revelation 12 tells how a woman clothed with the sun and a moon under her feet is ready to give birth to a male child who will rule the nations with an iron scepter. A red dragon stands in front of her, ready to devour her child. He interprets the woman as Mary and the dragon as Herod, who had the baby boys killed in Bethlehem after the Magi asked him where the king of the Jews was to be born. The male child is the Messiah.
To illustrate his point, Larson goes back to when Jupiter and Regulus were first meeting, the planet Virgo (the virgin) rose clothed in the sun with a new moon symbolically birthed at its feet.
Not an astronomer, Larson said he confirmed his findings with NASA's top planetary astronomer and biblical scholars, including the now deceased Harold Hoehner, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and chronologist.
Produced by Stephen McEveety ("The Passion of the Christ"), Larson said the Star of Bethlehem could become a movie.
Although it is a less expensive production, Larson said the DVD still evokes emotion when people realize how the sky communicated what was happening on Earth. The DVD is part of the The Star Project of which Larson is president.
As leader of The Star Project, Larson is finding other ways to spread the news of who Christ is. In collaboration with Jenny Cote, he has written a children's journal called "A Star for You."
He said it is a way to record a child's development and to teach the child what is unique or important about him or her.
The "Star of Bethlehem" DVD retails for $12.95 and is available at Christian boo