THE CHRISTMAS STAR

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Matthew 2:1-12

The mystery of the wise men, the magi, who travelled across the desert following the star to greet the new king, has never been satisfactorily solved.

Who were they?

Where did they travel from?

How did they know about the Messiah, the King who would be born in Israel?

Why were they so excited about the prospect of the birth of a new King?

Why did the feel an affinity with the Jews, they being Gentiles?

How did they know that this star was a symbol of the new King’s birth?

How did the star guide them to the place where the young child was?

The wise men are anonymous, mysterious and famous. As long as time exists Christians will discuss their question, one of the most wonderful questions of Scripture – “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?”

For as long as it took them to make the long desert journey this question dominated their thinking. Where is the new born King of Israel? Although they were foreign and Gentile this question mattered a lot to them. It meant everything. They wanted to meet the King.

It is highly likely that these magi belonged to a group of people who had been deeply influenced by the religion of the Jews as a result of the Jewish captivity in Babylon. The influence of Daniel had been profound in Babylon as had the impact of Queen Esther in Persia. These great empires had passed away but God’s truth remained in the hearts of those, in whom the seed had been sown. As a consequence it was not just the Jews who anticipated the Messiah, there were Gentiles, like these men, who harboured the same hope. This was in keeping with the promise given to Abraham millennia earlier, all families in the world would be blessed because of Him.

A car sticker, I once read simply said ‘Wise men sought Jesus, they still do’. These men were experts in the customs and books of the Jews. They were clever astronomers who could identify the stars, constellations and galaxies. They were versed in the languages and cultures of many peoples. They were wealthy as their gifts of gold, frankincense and gold demonstrated. But, ultimately, what set them apart was their desire for Jesus Christ. The rich gifts, which must have astonished Joseph and Mary in their poverty, were but an emblem of a greater gift given by these rich foreigners; the treasures of the heart.

These are days of gifts, of giving and receiving. What about the child of Bethlehem who became the man of Calvary? Have you a gift for Him; have you given Jesus the riches of your heart making Him King of your life? Wise people still seek Jesus.

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