There were a group of Magi or wisemen, sometimes referred to as kings, but they were not kings. They were probably from the court of a king, probably the King of Persia. But these Magi were actually astrologers – they studied the stars in the sky. And one bright and unusual star foretold the birth of a king, the King of the Jews … and so they traveled to worship (pay or offer homage) this new King.
We don’t know how far or how long they traveled. In the following passage Herod, threatened by the birth of another king and wanting to protect his reign, has all the children killed, he has all those two years and under killed. So Jesus could have been a toddler by the time the Magi reached him.
In this passage we still picture Jesus as a baby in a manger, but Mary and Joseph were probably at a different location by this time. We don’t know these facts.
But we do know that the Magi did not find this new King where they first thought. Probably with a caravan large enough to attract much attention, they first went into Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
The birth of a new great star in the sky announced the birth of this new great King.
The questioning of the Magi created quite a stir in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the center of all things political and all things religious. So, one would assume this new King would be in Jerusalem and that all Jerusalem would know of this King. But the Magi discovered that no one knew anything. King Herod, not knowing anything, calls upon the chief priests and teachers of the Law so they can tell him what God’s Word says about where this King, the Messiah, the Christ, is to be born.
The Magi are given further direction from the Scriptures that the child is to be born in Bethlehem.
Interesting no one joins them on their journey. Of course we know that King Herod has no interest, but to preserve his throne. But even the religious rulers, who live their lives serving and worshipping God, those who know the Scriptures and await a Messiah, are not interested. We are given no information that they were in the least bit excited, interested, or curious about the birth of this long-awaited One.
And so the Magi, the pagan Magi, those who are from another country, another land, another religion, another ethnicity, those who have the least in common with this new King, those who are least expected to have an interest in the birth of this Jewish King, continue their journey, the star going before them and stopping over the place where the child was.
Were the wisemen disappointed when they found Jesus?
One must wonder what those Magi thought when they saw where this King was. They first look for him in the city of Jerusalem and find him in a small town. They looked for him in a palace and they find him in a humble dwelling at the very least. They follow a magnificent star and it leads to a child born of poor parents, a father who is but a carpenter.
Were they disappointed? Were they disillusioned, even for a moment? Did they doubt? Did they think they had the wrong place, the wrong home, the wrong child? Did they ever wonder if the trip had been in vain?
Quite the opposite, it seems, as the passage reads, "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed."
They were overjoyed … and without missing a beat they enter into the place, they see the child, they bow down and worship the child. And they offer the child their treasures. Treasures (gold, incense, and myrrh) fit for any king, even this King they have found in unexpected places.
How do we respond when we find Jesus?
Today, we don’t just follow a star, we follow Christ, who 2 Peter reveals as the Morning Star. And following Christ can take us to some unexpected places. And we can find ourselves to be like one of three people or groups:
We can be like Herod, threatened by this One who is born to rule, not just some earthly kingdom, but born to rule in our hearts.
We can be like the religious rulers, and ignore his existence, take his birth for granted. We know he is come, and we believe he is come in our hearts, but his coming has made little difference in our lives. Christmas, the celebration of his birth, comes and goes with little impact on our lives. We have not gone out of our way to worship and serve him.
Or we can be like the Magi. We can go the distance. We can make the journey of a lifetime. We may not always find what we thought we would find at the end of the journey. We will sometimes find God leads us to unexpected places: to the poor, to the needy, to the sick, to the rich, to the palaces, to the religious, to the political.
Where is God leading you in 2005? What will you find when you find a child born in a manger? Where will you find yourself, when you follow the Star, the Morning Star?
We have been challenged by our District Superintendent to take a closer look at what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. And I invite you on a journey of discovery. We will begin looking at the qualities of a disciple of Christ throughout January which will culminate in a covenant of renewal on February 6. Walk with me, journey with me to unexpected places. Let us set our sites upon the Star and see where he takes us! If we, like the Magi, keep our eyes focused on the Christ, we too will not be disappointed.