Can you believe that Christmas has come and gone? What happened to all the presents under the tree? When you look around, almost everyone is exhausted. Now it is time to clean and pack it all up for next year. If you went to the malls this week people are returning those size 2 pants for size 6 or maybe even a size 10! ...Returns...Returns...Returns...
This Sunday is the final message in the series “Jesus is Our Hope.” We will be sharing together that to find hope we must choose wisely. When you look at Christmas cards there is something magical and mysterious about the age-old picture of three men wearing turbans, riding on camels, silhouetted against the night sky. From across a continent, over the desert sand, beneath the silent stars trudge a curious caravan. In the distant lands, these men have read signs and portents in the evening sky, sensing an incredible truth that few other living souls were to recognize for many years. There seems to be a huge, magnificent start blazing on the horizon.
The reason that the wise men thought that the star would lead them to a king is because of the ancient belief that signs in the heavens portended great--or terrible--things to come--depending on who is interpreting the sign. Some unusual movement or stellar event of great magnitude was often thought to herald the birth of a King or someone of great personage. An event occurred in the sky and they went looking. The fact that the star appeared and moved indicates more of a miraculous appearance than a natural one.
When you see the paintings and Christmas pageants from all over the world no one seems to agree on the roles of these men. Were they Magi? Monarchs? Magicians? Ambassadors? Astrologers? Or star watchers? We like to envision them in color and exotic attire, preferably with camels. We do know that rulers, kings, and pharaohs sought out their counsel and guidance.
They were most likely a King's personal advisors whose responsibilities included reading the stars, among other things. They were from "the east" which most probably meant Persia or Babylon.
Early church traditions put their number at twelve. Today, we imagine there were three (probably because there were three different types of gifts). Church traditions have assigned them names and personalities. Melchior, old, grey-headed, with a long beard brought the gold. Caspar, young, beardless, with a ruddy complexion brought frankincense. Balthasar, swarthy, with a new beard brought myrrh.
They even have their own song to sing (in three-part harmony) as they plod along through the sandy wastes, seeking a newborn king:
We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
The Bible, however, never says there were only three, does not mention camels, and does not give them names.
Over the years, the religious and political influence of the Magi continued to grow until they became the most prominent and powerful group of advisors in the Medo-Persian and Babylonian empires. These men, then steeped in occultism and false religions became very powerful and were almost like royalty themselves. So it would seem likely, that the ones going on the quest to find the babe, had a small army riding with them for protection. No wonder they created such a stir when that whole resplendent cavalcade rode through the gates of Jerusalem! It was like a foreign army coming in. Most likely, no one had ever seen anything like it. Matthew writes it this way in chapter 2
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
Finally, the moment they had been waiting for was here, Matthew 2:11 tell us “when the (wise men) got to the house (not the manger) “they saw the young Christ” (not the baby) “with Mary His mother and they bowed down and worshipped Him.” They knew in their hearts that this little toddler in a tiny, humble house, born to common working – class people, would one day rule the world.
The Wise Men have something to teach us, something that we need to apply to our lives today! It is the one thing many people will not do, WORSHIP! Those men worshipped Him. For us, it is not just saying “Merry Christmas” to people on the street, or in humming “We Three Kings” when we get up in the morning. That’s not worship. The Bible is clear on this- they fell down and worshipped Him.
The act of worship is one activity that will never disappoint. Whole hearted worship of Jesus Christ, giving Him your best, giving Him yourself will always fill your soul rather than deplete it. Most of us think of worship as what we do when we sing songs and hymns, close our eyes, and lift our hands; and in deed that can be a form of worship. But worship can also be that meal you cook for a sick friend or that clothing or financial help you provide for someone in need. What does your worship look like?
Make Every Day Count!