Matthew chapter 2 records the final act of the Nativity play. Magi, not magicians, but wise men, students of the stars: not astrologers but astronomers. Not men looking to stars to tell them how to run their life, but men searching for God’s signature in the stars.
It is speculated these magi from the East were JEWS! How you ask? When Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and carried the children of Israel off into captivity in Babylon, they were forced to live in a foreign land for 70 years until Cyrus the Great released them to return. Some Jews by this time had acclimated to life in Babylon and Persia and did not return to the homeland. But, they were still Jews! They were still being taught the Scriptures, the prophecies of Messiah, and they were students of Yahweh. Some believe this Eastern school of learned men were remnants of those taught by Daniel. Sounds logical to me. Who else would be looking for Messiah? The Promised ONE.
So around 1-2 BC, the skies begin to declare the glory of God. All the stars flung into place and named by God Himself begin to move and a star of unparalleled brightness emerges and stands over the little town of Bethlehem.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. (Psalm 147:4)
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)
He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. (Job 9:9)
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)
These Magi see this star and ride! Saddle up the camels we are headed West, we are headed toward our homeland. We are going to see Messiah, King of the Jews. Others saw the star, they did not follow it nor note its importance. But these WISE men did and because they did their story is still being told.
By the time they arrive, the star is STILL shining. This child is no longer in the manger where Shepherds saw Him, He is in a house and a toddler (somewhere between 6mos and two years). They find Him and WORSHIP by bowing down and bringing gifts. We can learn something from these wise men about worship. Bow down, humble yourself. They did this before a TODDLER! We Americans find this act of bowing incredibly difficult. It is called pride. It is an act of rebellion. We must learn to bow down for He is a King. They brought gifts. But as a mother, I wonder did Mary want to throw them out of her house? These men had the audacity to bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Expensive? Yes. Needed? As a mother of a toddler one would certainly hope not! These are gifts used to prepare a body for burial! Gold, money to purchase a tomb. Frankincense is needed for pain management and to promote calmness in the dying. Myrrh used to anoint the body for burial to reduce odor of decay. Sweet heaven, does she have to face His fate right now? Can she not just enjoy her baby?
Mary knows the prophecy. She knows her son is to be a King but she also knows He is to be a sacrifice. Luke 2:19 says Mary pondered all this. I think this was the first piercing of her heart that Zacharias mentioned. Does any of this make sense to you? Me either!
Then, enter the last angelic visit to Joseph in a dream. The command: “Get up NOW! Not tomorrow, NOW and go to Egypt.” Ok, wait just one minute. God wants me to take Mary, the baby, in the middle of the night, and go to Egypt? Does God remember that we LEFT there because we were slaves and the Egyptians HATE Jews? Again, this makes NO SENSE at all. Here is the reality. They were safer in Egypt than in Israel where Herod lived. Herod would kill every boy child two years old and younger out of jealousy over a would be two year old king talked about in some ancient manuscript.
For the second time since His conception, God has intervened to save the life of Jesus until the appointed time of His death. Yes, He was born to die. His cup, (December 2, 2015, Cup of Christmas: Capturing the Blessings of God) His fate was to be a sacrificial LAMB.
Joseph was visited a total of three times by an angel to direct his care of the Christ child. All three times he heeded the instructions. ASTOUNDING. No dialogue. No argument. No questions. Just obedience. No wonder he was chosen to be the earthly father of the Savior. His example of obedience to God’s word could not be surpassed.
This past June the “Star of Bethlehem” reappeared in the sky as Venus and Jupiter came into close conjunction once again for the first time in 2000 years. I saw it. It was spectacular! Brightest star I have ever seen. Many believe the Lord is once again using the stars to tell His story and indeed may be heralding His return. I have no idea if this sign in the sky along with four blood moons and a solar eclipse are all declaring His return. What I do know is this: If we are Wise men and women we will examine our hearts and prepare the way of the Lord, ponder His love for us in our hearts, be obedient to His word, and be ready to bow down and worship when He returns. This time when He comes it will be with a SHOUT! and every eye shall see it. (Don’t ask me how-I haven’t a clue.)
Luke 19:40 says that if we do not declare His return then the very stones will cry out this good news.
19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)
Each character in the Nativity play is vital to the narrative. Each one’s cup was filled to overflowing. Each one’s fate was assigned by God Himself. But we must not forget, Jesus fate is also in His cup and it is a bitter cup indeed. Jesus accepted His cup when He said, “not my will but thine be done.” For this purpose He took on dust. Because Jesus said, “Yes” to His Father’s plan, a plan set out before the foundation of the world, we have our cup filled with fear transformed into a cup of hope.
This is the gift of CHRISTmas.