Merry Christmas! I’m sure this day is filled with family, friends, food, gifts, and hopefully Jesus. Just like most of you – this day symbolizes a joyous time – but when the wise men came to visit the newly born King they were exceedingly joyful.
Let us read on in Matthew chapter two to focus in on the true meaning of Christmas.
Visitors from the East
2 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men[a] from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,[b] and we have come to worship him.”
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
The Escape to Egypt
13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”[e]
16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead.”[f]
The Return to Nazareth
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Something awesome about the Matthew Nativity account is that Matthew is revealing Jesus as King. Yesterday we read through the genealogy of Jesus that led to King David showing us Jesus’ royal lineage. As we read, the wise men went to King Herod seeking the new born King. They wanted to find Him to worship Him and Herod, threatened by this ‘new king,’ wanted Him out of the picture.
The Bible doesn’t say how many wise men there were but many assume three because of 1) the three gifts presented to the Child, and 2) the popular Christian Christmas hymn, “We Three Kings.” Just on a side note: Some do believe that there in fact was three wise men. Marco Polo, the great discoverer, found three tombs side-by-side at Saveh south of Tehran in the 1270s. He wrote in The Book of a Million, “In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out and in this city they are buried, in three very large and beautiful monuments, side by side.” Who knows? But again, the Bible doesn’t say. Anyways, back to the point.
So the wise men went out to find the Christ Child. In verse 9 we read that the star, which they had seen, went before them until it stood over where the Child was. And in verse 10 it says that when they saw the start they rejoiced. When I think of a star I think of a light. Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” I’m sure that the entire journey of the wise men was lit and they didn’t have to face darkness. And if you think about it, the light that led them really did lead them to life.
When they came to the Child, they worshiped Him and presented Him gifts. The wise men worshiped Jesus because they recognized that He was King of Kings! They presented Jesus with His first Birthday gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. To a normal child these gifts might make no ‘frankincense,’ but the Christ Child would have had compete understanding of these gifts. The gold has always been a way of exchange. Perhaps the wise men were divinely inspired to give gold because it would help Joseph and Mary move to Egypt. The gold represents Christ’s kingship. The frankincense and myrrh would be nothing new to Jesus. Frankincense (a sweet-smelling incense) and myrrh (a bitter-smelling incense) were used in the Old Testament to be given a burnt offering to the Lord in the Sanctuary. They recognized, through their knowledge of Scripture, the divinity of the Child.
As Christians, do we seek and worship Him like the wise men did? They went out from a faraway land to find this Child and they followed a star. The recognized Him as Lord of Lords and King of Kings and they fell and worshiped Him. I’m making a call. Calling all wise men (and women)! God is calling us to seek Him and worship Him! Just like that star that led the wise men, Jesus is the Light that leads us to eternal life. Jesus even says that we are the light of the world. It’s our jobs to reflect the Light, Jesus, to the whole world. And also like the wise men, we need to recognize His kingship as Lord of our lives. Just like the old Christmas hymn we need to pray, “Guide us to Thy perfect Light.”
Wise men and women, still seek Him!
Like the blessing of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!”
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.