“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him. Matthew 2:1-2
Shepherds came from a nearby hillside to worship the newborn baby whom angels announced. Quite a birth announcement! Months later a number of scholars, astronomers, and advisors to kings, called “magoi, came on a long, arduous, and dangerous journey to pay homage to this same “King of Kings in a poor, obscure village named Bethlehem; this was not a birth place in which you would expect to discover someone like Jesus, now a toddler. It was a very long trip by these men, most likely upon camels, for a brief encounter. We do not know exactly what length of time they actually stayed, but it was probably a short visit, maybe, so as not to attract undue attention.
God sent these two groups of visitors to witness the birth, the incarnation of His Son, though the complete understanding of men concerning this was yet in its infancy, so to speak. One group from the Jews, one from the Gentiles. One representing Israel, the race of the Messiah, and one representing the remainder of the world. They were brought by two very different, yet most supernatural means to see and celebrate the One who was sent to be the Savior of men. Most likely the guiding “star of these Magi was akin to the pillar of fire which led the Children of Israel in the wilderness in their escape from Egypt.
These distinguished men, for they were accomplished and very close to royalty, had to undertake a journey of months for this baby was already possibly over a year old, at least somewhere under two years old according to Herod’s evil calculation and design to protect his fraudulent claim to be the sole “King of the Jews. To protect his place on the throne he ordered that all baby boys two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem be slaughtered by his soldiers.
These men brought Jesus and His parents at least three mentionable gifts of particular symbolism, having researched who He was and would be, for He would be a prophet, priest, and king; so, frankincense, myrrh, and gold. These men were very probably greater than three, maybe as much as five or six, or even seven or eight. The conjectured traditional number of Magi stems only from the three gifts spoken of in Scripture.
Almost certainly these were chief members of a group of scholars/researchers/scientists-in-residence once led by Daniel, who was living in exile from Israel, and had been appointed by the Babylonian king the chief of these “magoi. Daniel’s influence on this group was great and his spiritual example and instruction lasted for generations, for God had previously promised, “up to a thousand generations of those who love me and obey my commandments. All of this to prepare for centuries after Daniel to come to worship the promised One, and hence be willing to commence a very long journey to actually see Him who was born King of the Jews. It had to be the most important thing to their minds and hearts to make this trip. This was a preparation engineered by God over centuries, coinciding with His promise from the beginning of time that He would one day “in the fullness of time send a Redeemer.
Eventually we will have the joy of meeting and fellowshipping with these wise men and personally hear their story, as we will hear the shepherds’ story. The concise accounts of Scripture will be fleshed out by them to cover every fascinating detail of the most stupendous event of history: the Son of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
These distinguished foreigners and these humble shepherds are universally known in the Christmas story celebrated all over the world by those from every tribe, race, and language. Countless pictures, re-creations, and movies depict the nativity scene with shepherds and even, though wrong chronology, wise men or “kings throughout the world and in every generation. There is no story which enjoys the same notoriety as the Christmas story with its accompanying carols and memorable music. No one can create a story like God did in sending His Son in the unique way He did. No story has become so remarkable as the manner in which the Savior of the world entered it.
Can any who refuse to believe the Gospel declare complete ignorance as their excuse? In any case, Romans 1 tells us unequivocally that no one is without excuse. How that is possible rests with the integrity and justice of God. The truth of Advent is Jesus came to us as promised, and salvation for us lies in receiving Him as the Savior, the only way to God the Father. We have now at this end of 2017 once more celebrated a season of Advent, a special reminder to thank and praise our God for the gift of His Son.
“Sages, leave your contemplations; brighter visions beam afar. Seek the great desire of nations; we have seen His natal star. Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King.
(3rd verse of James Montgomery’s hymn, “Angels, From the Realms of Glory, 1816)
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