“After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:9-11; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Are we willing to seek a closer walk with Jesus in 2023? Are we willing to make the sacrifices and accept the required changes?
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany when the Church commemorates the magi’s (or wise men’s) visit with the child Jesus and His family. Many Christians assume it occurred the same night that Jesus was born (Nativity scenes show both the magi and shepherds present at the same time), but it could have been as much as two years later. Jesus was in a house (Matthew 2:10), not a manger, and possibly crawling or walking. (I imagine Mary saying, “No Jesus, don’t eat the frankincense! It’ll give you a tummy ache!”)
They had traveled a great distance. The term “magi” suggests they may have come from Persia. If so, it would have taken them four or more months to make the trip to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. That is quite a journey for someone following a star because they think it is giving them a sign.
They received a sign, which they probably assumed was a message from their god, and they followed it. They started in faith. Maybe it was even a misguided faith, believing in a false deity, but the God of Israel accepted their faith as they prepared to pay homage to His Son.
Logic seems to have taken them off track. After following the star, they took a detour to Jerusalem. Logic dictated that a King of the Jews would be born in Jerusalem, perhaps to King Herod, who claimed that title. However, he probably had not recently had any children, because he had to ask the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah would be born. There was no Messiah, no newborn King of the Jews, in Jerusalem. They would journey to Bethlehem, and once again, the divinely appointed star led the way.
It led them to a very unlikely-looking family. Although only a few miles from Jerusalem, Bethlehem was a smaller community. They were a poorer family, led by a carpenter, not exactly royal or upper-class. Jesus probably looked like an ordinary infant or toddler. However, faith had led the magi there, and faith somehow assured them that the star had led them to the right house. This was the King!
They worshiped Him by offering gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They were not exactly the kind of gifts most of us would give to a toddler. They were valuable, though. Although this Boy King could offer no royal blessing or political favors in exchange, they gave Him expensive treasures.
After a four-month trip and a brief visit (maybe a few hours), they returned home by following a longer route. God warned them, in a dream, that King Herod was not planning to come to worship Baby Jesus, but instead planned to kill Him.
They had used their talents to find the Messiah. God seemed to use their skill in an occultic practice of astrology to lead them to Jesus. (Let’s just get rid of a lot of whitewashing in the church. The title “magi” means they were priests of a pagan religion who practiced astrology and what we now call “magic.” Even though their practices were condemned by the Old Testament, God invited them to meet and worship the Messiah.)
They sacrificed a great amount of time to seek Him.
They worshiped Him with their treasures.
They returned with no visible reward. We can only imagine what they told people when they returned to Persia: they had given their gold, frankincense, and myrrh to a small child in a carpenter’s home, not in a royal castle or even the capital city.
However, God accepted their gifts. I believe He reckoned their faith as righteousness (Galatians 3:6-9), and those of us who follow Jesus can ask them when we get to heaven what happened when they returned home.
So, what about those of us who follow Christ in 2023? Will we follow Him by faith, or will we allow our thinking and ideas to lead us off the path? Will we use our talents and abilities to seek Him and serve Him? Will we sacrifice our time to glorify Him? Will we worship Him with our possessions, even if we know we will not gain anything in return?
We do not need to follow a star. We can fix our eyes on Jesus. We have the Bible, the Word of God, to direct our paths as we seek Him. We can seek Him in prayer, in praise and worship, and in fellowship with other believers. We can serve Him by loving our neighbors as ourselves: in our families, neighborhoods, jobs, churches, and in service to those who suffer and struggle.
The magi saw only a small child. We see a Risen Savior. The magi did not know the entire story of how this King would die for the sins of the world, rise again, sit on a throne in heaven, and that His kingdom would be in heaven. They worshiped Him anyway.
We know what Jesus did for us. Let us worship Him with the same determination and fortitude that the magi did.
“O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).
How can you make a greater commitment to seek and worship Jesus in the coming year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Copyright © 2023 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.