It seems appropriate to think about the wise men who saw the star in the east and followed, to get to visit the baby Jesus in Bethlehem as described in Matthew 2 since tonight the human explanation for what they saw is to be replayed for the first time in 800 years. The planets of Mars and Jupiter are to line up in such a way tonight to create an amazing sight in the sky. it really doesn’t seem reasonable that this is what the wise men saw since the whole reading seems to indicate this sign in the sky was something that had lasted for an extended time and reappeared for them after they visited Herod with questions about the birth of the Messiah. But it is inherent in mankind to try to find a human explanation for every miraculous sign given in the Bible. I find it amazing that God had Matthew the Jewish writer to tell of the wise men from the east seeking out Jesus while Luke the Greek would be the one chosen to tell the story of the angels appearing to Jewish shepherds in the field to announce the birth of Jesus.
Both these stories shout the message from the very beginning of Jesus’ life on the earth that he was to be a Savior for all people. The shepherds in the field were considered lower class people among the Jews. If they had been picking how the storyline went they would certainly have chosen Pharisees or members of the Sanhedrin or maybe even one of the priests to be the ones God brought to see the baby Jesus. Obviously, the timing of the two stories is very different. The shepherds came while Jesus is still in the manger in the stable with his mother and Joseph. When the wise men came to visit they were in a home. The fact that Herod demanded all the baby boys 2 years old and younger to be put to death when he sought to destroy him may well indicate that Jesus was between one and two years old by the time they made their visit.
These wise men were students of the stars. They sought God through the signs of life that they observed in the sky. When they went to Herod seeking for the one born king of the Jews they said, “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Herod had to seek help from the chief priests and teachers of the law to find out where the Messiah was to be born. They told of the prophecy from Micah 5:1-4 that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. When the wise men left Herod who had asked them to come back and tell him what they found, they headed toward Bethlehem. “The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:9-12).
What are the lessons that are important for us to learn from this familiar story? Why did God have Matthew to put this into his gospel account? First, it does shout the message that wise people pay attention to what is going on around them and certainly seeks the Savior of the world. Of all the things in life that people are searching for in our time, it is remarkable that so many fail to search for the one person who they most need to know If we can gain all the things of life and have the biggest house, the finest cars and have the largest salary, but still not know Jesus, our whole life will have been a horrible waste with a horrendous conclusion.
Second, wise people are willing to put themselves out to find Jesus and to worship Him. I don’t know how far they traveled following the star. But it took some effort to make the trip, to come to Jerusalem and seek out, Herod. It took time and effort to get to the child. But they gave the effort and found the baby that was born to be king.
Third, wise people are givers and not just receivers. They were looking for the one born to be king of Jews. But they brought gifts to give to the baby. They brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts showed sacrifice, and effort to give and to worship the Lord of the Universe. How odd to bow before a baby and think of them as Savior, Lord, and King.
We can’t travel today following a star to see the baby, Jesus. But we seek him as our Lord and Savior, our king. We can bring gifts to him of ourselves and of what we have as an offering to Him. We can bow before Him at any time to offer ourselves as His fully committed servants. We can share with others what we have seen and learned about our Lord and Savior every day. We can remember Jesus lives and reigns today and loves us more than we can imagine.
May God bless you and your family this Christmas season.