For Rick Larson, a simple decorating project became his magnificent obsession. The attorney from College Station, Texas, spent months researching original documents and material to determine as best as he could the connection between The Star of Bethlehem, which he calls the "Celestial Poem of God." I met Rick this summer and we talked about his research, the star, and the impact it's had on his life.
Tuning In Crowning Moment
I'm Going to Kosovo!
Can you walk me through why you decided to research The Star of Bethlehem?
Rick: First, I think it was revealed to me. When I heard it, I knew I was supposed to take it to the world. I didn't discover this, it was revealed to me, and what God got out of me was doggedness.
Do you consider yourself to be in ministry? Did you plan it out in advance or was it something you found yourself doing? I feel sort of like I was tricked into this. I'm not complaining, but I would never have dreamed of getting involved in this.
When I started this journey, I was a successful practicing lawyer and was teaching Real Estate Law at Texas A&M University. I taught there for 14 years, and my plate was full. I wasn't looking for a ministry because I was already teaching Sunday School every week.
What really happened was that a nice kid in the neighborhood had a great idea to make some money at Christmas time. He said, 'You're all going to let me make cutouts for your yard. I'll put them up for you, light them, and store them in the off-season. You can pay me a subscription fee." It was a great idea.
He came to my door and asked me what I wanted. They were all Disney characters, duckies and bunnies, and I just couldn't go there. I'm a deeply committed Christian, so come Christmas, my house was dark because I couldn't put those cutouts in my yard. The rest of the neighborhood was all lit up and everybody was coming through looking. They'd see my house and think, "oh, that's where the atheist lives." It totally backfired on me.
So we decided to make decorations for the yard and we chose the three wise men. We wanted to choose something that was Christian but wasn't holier-than-thou. But then my daughter said, "Daddy, you have to make The Star of Bethlehem, because if you're going to have wise men you have to have a star." So that's what started the whole thing.
I'm a lawyer and I know how to build cases and marshal up facts, so if I'm going to make a star, I have to investigate it. What did it look like? What did it do? How long did it last? Did it explode? Was it an angel? Was it the Shekinah glory of God? Was it a myth? I wondered about all those things and that's how it started.
Where did you go first?
Rick: That was just tuning in, becoming aware. Then I got a newsletter from Imprimus and it had an article about the Star of Bethlehem written by a Ph.D. astronomer who took the position that star was real. I was totally fascinated by that because I'd already been tuned in. But I didn't completely understand the article. I kept it, though.
The next thing that happened was that my church asked me to teach a course called Essentials, about the Biblical basis for the core beliefs of Christianity. I started writing that curriculum. It's not really a core belief, but I decided to include a tiny section on external evidences. As I was writing that section, I thought about how it would be fantastic external evidence if I wrote about the Star of Bethlehem. That's what set me off. And the search began.
Then I pulled out that article and ran down everything in it. And I just kept going from there. Looking from the outside, you'd say that I was obsessed. But if you're a Christian, you'd say that I was given a mission. It wasn't a burden to me, but somehow every night God got me out on my deck doing research. I'd put my family to bed and do research. This was in the middle of everything else going on in my life.
First, I started reading everything I could find on the star, most of which is bogus. It's written by well-meaning people, I'm sure, but they don't believe the Bible is true, they don't believe the star is really real, so the stuff they produce isn't of much interest.
I started giving presentations in my Sunday School class, then other churches started asking me to do them. I thought people would think I was going too fast or saying too much, but they enjoyed it and wanted more information. So I had to build a website to back it up. I sent it my good buddy in Israel who is a Messianic Jew. He really liked it and asked for the footnotes. I told him I wasn’t going to footnote it because of the amount of work it took, but he said if I wanted it to be taken seriously, I had to do that.
So I went to secondary sources: the Bible, encyclopedias, someone else's books on the subject. But I thought it wasn't good enough, so I went back to the original sources in Greek and Latin to find what I could. I didn't just footnote them, I pulled the source material and provided. When it all starts to gel, you feel like you're onto something.
The crowning moment for me was finding out that the lunar eclipse at Christ's crucifixion fit with this poem. It was all once piece. The Star of Bethlehem is the beginning of this celestial poem that ends with Christ's death on the cross. When you see that, that's what destroys audiences and made me say, "My God! What did you do!"
He created this terrible poem of incredible beauty, and that's what’s destroying believers. Non-believers are blown away because they can't just dismiss it. I get emails from parents of people who are backslidden, and tell me that I wouldn't believe their kids' responses.
One mom wrote me and said, "My daughter is 23 years old, she's not walking with the Lord. I got her to come to your presentation and she came home and laid facedown on the floor and wept. She realized all of a sudden that it's true, and God's really there."
It fills Christians with a whole new attitude toward God. They realize the magnitude of His sovereignty, and that He really is running everything. They see Him as they never did.
It has been an absolute burden, but thrill, to do it. It's totally upended my life. I probably wouldn't have asked for it.
How long did that process take?
Rick: Before I did my first presentation, I was researching for 18 months to 2 years. But the first presentation wasn't the whole thing, it was just for my class. I'm still looking because there is more information. There's more that I know that I can't say yet. I wouldn't say that it's over yet.
Let me tell you the background of the DVD. When I did the presentation for my church and other churches, I realized I can't go everywhere and thought I needed to have a movie. I got a call from a guy I didn't know who represented a ministry organization. He's telling me about conditions in Kosovo, where we've driven out the Serbs. The Albanians have come back in and occupied the infrastructure, but don't have pencils or equipment. He said the Muslims want to have interchange with us, so would you come and do your presentation for the University of Christians in Kosovo.
I said, "Aren't they killing people in Kosovo?" Yes, but not everyone. So I told him I'd pray about it, which I did for three days. Before I even hit my knees, I'm hearing, "Go there. Go unto all the world," and I thought, "I'm going to Kosovo!"
So I went to Kosovo, then Albania, Slovakia, Italy, I've been to several other countries and the response is always that it's amazing. I realized on the flight back from Kosovo that I had a ministry. Sitting on that plane for hours with nothing to do, I thought, "I've presented in the United States, Kosovo, to Christians, Muslims and atheists. I've presented at universities, and there's this great response everywhere." That's when I realized I don’t have an option.
And I also realized I need to have a resource, a movie. And when I realized that, I thought I might not have to go to so many places.
We tried to make a film for a long time, but God did not bless it. I thought He was assembling a great team of people: top Hollywood people, financiers from Europe, a great business plan, but it went nowhere. Maybe we were assembling a great team. It didn't go anywhere and He didn't bless it. The blessing was in the presentations, they were standing room only.
So I did a presentation in Colorado Springs. Steve McEveety (producer of The Passion of the Christ) is in the audience. He loves the Star. He wants to have coffee the next morning, so we meet. He's with the guy who made the National Geographic March of the Penguins. He said he wants to make a movie. I thought, great!
I told him I wanted to make a documentary, and he said they're too hard to sell. So I asked what he wanted to do. All of a sudden I'm scared He's going to make a movie that doesn't display God's poetry, and that it's going to turn into something else. But I certainly don't turn him down because I'd like to do this. We talked for over a year but nothing really happened.
I decided to get my money together and worked with my team and said, "Let's do something so that if I die, someone can stand on my shoulders and do this presentation." So we put our resources together and did this very low budget. It came out well, so I sent it to McEveety and he said, "I want this."
He still wants to make a movie, and maybe one day it will be made. It was a shoestring deal, but God was in it.
Are you still teaching now?
Rick: I can't hold down an undergrad course, so now I settle for teaching evil Halliburton executives because I can give that a day and not take up too much time. I still teach graduate courses at A&M, just not undergrad. I would love it if the Lord would allow me to just do this ministry. That would be wonderful, but not yet. It's been an absolute thrill.