Has it ever struck you as “odd” that Matthew – who writes specifically to the Jews – includes this story of the Gentile Christmas; and Luke – who writes specifically to the Gentile, Theophilus – gives us the Jewish Christmas story? What a GREAT REMINDER that Jesus is “the baby born King of the Jews and the Gentiles!”
We celebrate “the Gentile Christmas” / Epiphany (January 6) – “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, behold Magi from the east came to Jerusalem…” Who were these “Magi?” The Christmas carol says: “We Three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts, we travel afar…” This is a favorite carol, but not very accurate. God’s Word tells us these were Magi – (where we get the word “magicians”) – they were very educated astrologers, with great knowledge and high positions in society; but not “kings” as we might understand the term.
Over 600 years prior to Jesus’ birth, during the Babylonian captivity, God’s Word tells us about a well-known “magi” named Daniel: “Now king Nebuchadnezzar placed Daniel… as chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners… over all the wise men of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:48) Daniel and the “wise men” were the advisors to the king; the most knowledgeable of the nation!
But what was it that made them truly “wise?” There is a difference between “wisdom” and “knowledge.” “Knowledge” has to do with the learning of facts and figures, but “wisdom” has to do with the life application of such facts and figures.
What a contrast in today’s Gospel: Gentile men followed the star some 2-300 miles seeking to worship the “King of the Jews.” But the Jews in Jerusalem, particularly the chief priests and teachers of the Law, who had the knowledge that He would be born “in Bethlehem of Judea;” foolishly did not travel the less than six miles (down to Bethlehem)! These Gentiles were “wise men” because they applied the knowledge to their lives. As a result, they “saw the Child…bowed down and worshiped Him and presented Him with gifts.” (Matthew 2:11-12) Returning home, and for the rest of their lives, they must have shared the wonderful news!
Would you and I have joined these Wise Men? Are we willing to leave our “comfort zone;” go to a different culture under the rule of a foreign, pagan government; follow a “star” for directions (without GPS), and wise enough even to stop to ask for directions? They did all this by faith to worship not a powerful king, but a baby! But this baby was JESUS!
According to worldly standards – it made absolutely NO SENSE! What a great sacrifice these men made, with such an expensive trip and gifts! All this because they wisely were led by the Holy Spirit to the King of Kings!
True wisdom only comes from God’s Word which tells us: “The fear of the Lord (faith) is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who practice it.” (Psalm 111:10) All the facts and figures in the world will never bring meaning and purpose to life, nor do they bring comfort at the time of cancer, sickness, loss and death. Only the God-given wisdom of the fear, love and trust in God makes a person truly “wise.” God’s Word reminds us that “the Holy Scriptures are able to make us WISE unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) IT IS ONLY by God’s gift of faith that we are among The Wise Men (women/children) who still worship Christ.
The Wise men “bowed down and worshiped Him.” The first action in our worship also must be honest humility. Only through the wisdom of God do we recognize our sinfulness and the great privilege to be in His presence.
Secondly, these wise men “opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts.” The first Wise Men brought only the best for this “newborn King.” Do we present our best offerings of time, abilities and money to Jesus and His work through His Church? This is how “Wise men (and women and children) still worship Christ.”
Now, as the decorations and lights, the Christmas trees and garlands are all coming down, you and I, made “wise” through faith in Jesus Christ, are led by Jesus living in our lives through Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and the hearing of God’s Word. Now we, like the Wise Men, continue our lives of worshiping Jesus, the King, as we too “bow down in worship,” “present gifts” worthy of Jesus; and as we “wisely,” joyfully and willingly live in the blessings of “the One born King of kings and Lord of lords;”
In the precious name of Jesus,