Jupiter and Saturn embrace in the glow of the sun

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 17, 2020

The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, the “Christmas Star,” is visible in the southwest following sunset on Dec. 21. Graphic by Warren Harbeck

To be channels of light for a despairing world – what a positive thought! Following up on last week’s column on how Jack Frost’s window art is just such a channel for light passing through its etched loveliness, I’d like to look this week at how reflected light has a special meaning on Monday, Dec. 21 – the winter solstice. Or to be more specific, let’s enjoy the Great Conjunction of 2020!

For the first time in nearly 800 years we Earthlings will be treated to a view of the planets Jupiter and Saturn appearing to pass so close to each other trailing the setting sun that they will seem to the naked eye to shine like one new heavenly body. In fact, ages ago the conjunction’s appearance earned it the name, “Christmas Star.”

Around 5:00 pm on Dec. 14 I took a break from writing and went up on the hill overlooking the Cochrane & District AG Society and had a perfect view of the two planets drawing closer and closer. They were about a hand’s breadth above the southwest horizon at arm’s length, and Saturn was about .5 degrees to the upper left of the much brighter Jupiter. Ah, the anticipation!

This special event has alerted me to two important lessons for our lives together here on Earth:

First, Jupiter and Saturn are really quite different from each other. Most obvious are Saturn’s rings, whereas Jupiter is noted for its stripes. And although the two largest planets in our solar system – Jupiter is by far the larger of the two – will appear from our perspective to merge, their orbits are quite far apart, with Saturn’s orbit being about twice as far from us as Jupiter’s. But for this occasion they’ve set aside their differences and have embraced in a hug.

Second, their brilliance is not their own! The two planets are reflecting the glorious glow of the sun! And their radiant faces are simply testimonies to the greater light.

And therein I find wisdom for us. Each of us is unique: different heritages, different looks and personalities, different life experiences. But those differences do not have to prevent us from connecting with each other.

But more importantly, we can attain a higher awareness of ourselves as we realize our true identity is as reflectors of the Greater Light, the Light of our Creator. This calls for humility and a sense of calling to share that reflected light with others. Just imagine how unexciting the evening sky would be for us right now if Jupiter and Saturn kept the light to themselves!

And about Christmas? As the prophet Isaiah said about the arrival of the Messiah: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light” (quoted in Matthew 4:16). And we, as reflectors of that Light, are privileged to be its channels for a despairing world.


© 2020 Warren Harbeck

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