Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
The Wisemen - New Year’s Eve - December 31, 2014 - Text: Matthew 2:1-12
Our text is Matthew 2:1-12: 1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. This is our text.
This year our Advent through Christmas and New Year’s Eve theme has taken us from the promise of a Messiah to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. We began about four weeks ago hearing some of the promises or prophecies and we heard how those promises and prophecies had their fulfillment according to God’s perfect timing. About three weeks ago we revisited some of the timing issues that have been in the Nativity Tradition for so many years. About two weeks we took some time to scrutinize some of the extra Biblical people and items that have been in our Christmas Nativity Tradition to see if our tradition really does follow the Bible. Our purpose is to make sure we get it right so that when we tell others they will not come back later and say, hey, you mixed up some stuff or added some stuff in and thus will not believe anything we say. On Christmas Eve evening, we looked at the issue of time and God’s perfect timing. On Christmas morning we reviewed the part of the shepherds in the Nativity history. This evening we will conclude our series by considering the part of the Magi or Wisemen in the Nativity History, again with an emphasis on correcting some of the parts of the account that tradition has confused.
The traditional church children’s Christmas or Christmas Eve program brings three Magi or the Wisemen in for the last part of the program. They arrive at the stable to greet the newborn king, but is this really how it happened? Did they arrive just after Jesus was born and where there three or do we actually know how many wisemen there were? According to the gospel writer Matthew and his account it would appear that the wisemen did not arrive on the night that Jesus was born and as we have made note earlier Jesus was not born in a stable but in the main part of the house, not the guest or upper room. After consulting with the scribes and chief priests of Herod’s court the wisemen came to see Jesus and then after leaving, once Herod realized they were not coming back He had the baby boys two years and younger murdered, thus when they arrived to see Jesus He would have been about one to one and a half years of age, again, as confirmed by Herod’s killing of the infants. And so Matthew tells us they arrived at the house where they were staying to see the child.
As for the number of wisemen, we usually always see three. Although tradition lists the names of three wise men as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar we do not actually know if that was their names, nor the exact number of wisemen who would have been in the caravan. I would suggest we think of there being three wisemen mostly because of the three gifts. With that said, let us take a few minutes to look at the three gifts that are mentioned and discuss their significance.
We are told that one gift that was given was the gift of gold. Gold was as precious in Jesus’ day as it is today and traditionally gold would be the gift for a King. Gold is a fitting gift as it recognizes Jesus is our King of Kings. Jesus was born from the kingly tribe of Judah, even from the line of King David, His rule was not to be an earthly rule and His kingdom was not intended to be an earthly kingdom. He is King of Kings who rules forever from His eternal throne in heaven.
We are told that another gift was the gift of incense or frankincense. The gifts of incense is a fitting gift for a priest. A priest would burn incense in the temple as a fragrant offering to the Lord. Jesus is our High Priest even the great High Priest who offered not simply incense on an altar, but He offered Himself for us once and for all on the cross. And now as our Great High Priest He is seated at the right hand of the Father where He continually intercedes for us.
A third gift that we are told that was given was the gift of myrrh. Myrrh is an anointing oil and is a gift that is fitting to be given to a prophet who would in turn use the oil to anoint those especially chosen to be a prophet or a priest or a king. Jesus is a prophet even the great prophet. As a prophet He did foretell of the events of His suffering, death and resurrection, and as a prophet He did proclaim the message of salvation by His grace through faith in Himself alone. As our great prophet He is the one who fulfilled all prophecies and who continues to be proclaimed through the preaching of His Word today.
What does this mean? The visit of the wisemen was important because these were the first non-Jews to recognize the birth of the Christ and the fact that Jesus came for all people, Jew and Gentile alike. Remember the promise to send a Christ was given way back in the Garden of Eden before there ever was a Jew and Gentile, when there were only people, Adam and Eve.
The visit of the wisemen was important because they evidently had heard the promises of the coming Messiah and they were studying that Word looking for a sign. Not only did the Jewish nation have the Word of God and the promise of a Christ, so did Gentiles who heard the Word of God and believed it as well.
The visit of the wisemen was important because the Word of God, the historic account, their eyewitness of the birth of the Messiah was taken back to their lands. Certainly these wisemen brought back the account of their visit of the Savior of the world to their own people who rejoiced in the birth of the Savior of the world as well.
The visit of the wisemen reminds us that Jesus is the Savior for all people, of all places of all times. Jesus is the One, the only One who is God in flesh, who completely and fully fulfilling all the prophecies of old and all the commands of God.
Today we still celebrate the visit of the wisemen and many Gentiles celebrate the visit of the wisemen over and above the normal Christmas celebration because to them the visit of the wisemen is the recognition of Jesus as the Savior of all, their Savior and ours. Finally, this evening we would correct the tradition of the wisemen arriving just after the hectic rush of Mary and Joseph to find a place to stay for the baby to be born to realize that these wisemen, no matter how many there were, arrived a year or so latter giving gifts to Jesus recognizing His prominence as our prophet, priest and king. And so, now, armed with the truth of the Word of God, we may rightly and boldly give an answer for our faith so that others might hear the Word of God and be given faith as well. And so that we might all rejoice and say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.