Devotion - Seeking Christ at Christmas
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
While studying the Christmas story there are a few big things that jump out and should stir our hearts in awe at the constant presence of a sovereign God in our lives. The first is that God is in control and that all things move at His will despite the circumstances that appear before us. The second is that God always has a plan and nothing catches Him off guard. These things should provide us comfort during the constant unrest of 2020, especially with the reminders that Christmas brings. The star and the managers that decorate our homes and most of all the gifts under the tree.
Let me try to illuminate from the Holy scripture and Matthew chapter 2. The focus is the location. In reality, it is the baby king found in this location, not just the location. However, our little town of Bethlehem was central to God’s plan. Why? As the chief priests and scribes read from Micah to King Harod, it was clearly because of the prophesy of Messiah. Bethlehem was the birthplace of King David and would now be the birthplace of Jesus Christ the descendent of David and the next prophesied king. But how did this happen when Marry and Joseph were in Nazareth 90 miles away? How do you get a young maiden in her third trimester of pregnancy to travel this great distance? Man can’t but God can! You see something happened that was not so uncommon, but its timing had to be perfect to align everything which happened that night. This event was a census and a tax. Luke informs us that Caesar Augustus ordered it and that all had to go to their own city. Since both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David, their required travel took them to Bethlehem Judah 90 miles away as prophesied. This reminds me of the scripture in Proverbs 21:1 “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” The distance was great. The window of time was small. In fact, mathematicians have calculated that the chances of anyone being born in this little town of Bethlehem vs the population of the time would equate to about 1 in 100,000. But if you add on other factors like being born of the lineage of David the chances decrease significantly. God aligned it all just like the planetary alignment that recently was likened to the magnificent Christmas Star (See Image Below from 2020).
The second thing that jumps out are the wise men. Who are they? Why did they travel so far from the east? Why did they care about the star or a Jewish King since they themselves were not Jews? We first know that they were not kings as the song we sing says but instead king makers. They were Magi or spiritual advisors. Bible scholars link them back to Medes and Persians and tie them all the way back to Daniel 1:20. “And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” However, they might even tie back to the magicians and advisors of Pharaoh found in Exodus. They were scholars, astronomers, and often religious leaders who advised kings. In modern times, the word magi links to our words for magician and magistrate holding to its roots and role. So how did this caravan of wise men know about Jesus? Yes caravan as they often traveled in large groups and not just three as written in the song. I believe that this multitude knew the same as you and I, God’s Holy Word. They very well could have been following the teachings passed down from a powerful jewish magi in Nebuchadnezzar’s court named Daniel who often prophesied of Messiah (Daniel 9:25). So why did they come these hundreds of miles from the east? They traveled to worship! There was no distance that could keep them from Messiah and God provided them a map in the form of a star. And who did God give this star too? The ones that could interpret its meaning and purpose! Only God can align the stars to do His will using it to draw men unto Himself. This Christmas many of us still see this token sitting on top of most of our trees. The star still beckons us to never forget who it is pointing to, Jesus Christ. The three gifts that they brought are so often why the masses believe that there were only three wise men. However, these gifts had a purpose. They were gifts only worthy to be given to a king, a priest, and to embalm the worlds sacrifice for sin. And as these wise men gave worthy gifts, we need to remember the worthy gift that God gave that first Christmas to satisfy the biggest need of all mankind, our sin.
As I close these thoughts, let’s dwell on the last key figure mentioned which is King Harod. He was the current King of the Jews and a very paranoid one at that. Cesar has been recorded saying that it is better to be Harod’s pig than his son. Why? Harod had killed one wife and two sons for fear of protecting his thrown and Jesus was now the greatest threat he faced to take his power and perceived control. The sad part about Harod is he fought so hard to keep his life that he actually lost it, not only losing his flesh but his eternal soul.
With all this understood, I can’t help but think that Harod and the wise men represent two groups of people living in this world. The ones that seek Christ, devoting their lives to worship, service, and sacrifice. The others that seek to keep control of their lives at all cost and unfortunately miss the joy of Jesus. God has aligned the stars to give us a Savior and a worthy king! He continues to call and guide us against so many odds to draw us, a rebellious people, to His kingdom of rest ruled by the prince of peace. King Harod had the Holy Word of God and the Jewish chief priest that knew the exact place to find the Son of God, but he refused to go forth to seek the Savior unless it was for destruction. The wise men probably had the same holy scriptures which were passed down from Daniel the profit, but being foreign to God, still sought Him with all they had. Which one will you be this Christmas season? The seeker of truth, peace with God, and the real meaning of Christmas or one who values the ways of worldly power and the elimination of Christ in Christmas? God has a plan and has created a path in spite of our sin. He also gave us a guiding star by the holy scriptures to help us find the greatest gift of all, Jesus! Jesus Christ born under a star, died on a cross, and resurrected to shine as our light of hope in glory!
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
Merry Christmas and May God Bless!