Visit of the Magi

Matthew records the visitation of the Magi — Matthew 2:1-12

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One Reply to “Visit of the Magi”

  1. My first thought when reading this today was about the presentation by Rick Larson,, where he explores the question about the star, “We say his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). It’s a very compelling story because, at the very least, it provides the much needed background for understanding how and why Magi would be watching the stars. With a reference way back in Numbers 24:17: “I see him, but  not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” I’ve mentioned it before, but it must have been an amazing site to see the stars so clearly in the night sky. It’s understandable that many would spend countless hours studying the stars and learning their patterns and behavior long before orbital mechanics was studied in schools.

    Herod heard about these Magi, learned men from the East (they couldn’t simply walk into town unnoticed!).  He wanted to maintain his control and authority, so Herod summoned the priests to explain “where the Messiah was to be born” (Matthew 2:4). The priests dutifully recite Micah’s prophesy:

    But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times. Micah 5:2

    The Magi, astrologers, not devout Jews or even Jewish in heritage, are excited, “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” (Matthew 2:10-11). Notice they visited Mary and Jesus at “the house,” not at the manger. Our traditions of Christmas celebrations are not meant to be scientifically accurate, but it’s good to know there are some intricate details for us to remember. Mary was in a house by the time the Magi appeared. The star rising is indeed a term of astrological reference because we know the stars shift as the earth rotates as well as the vast cosmos of heavenly bodies are in motion. The Magi are probably wise men, but not likely kings, and there is no actual count provided here. There could have been a dozen of them traveling together, all intrigued by something they studied. We know that God has used pagans in the past to affect his will, most notably, Balaam, so it’s not beyond any stretch to believe these men traveled at his prompting.

    Perhaps the important thing to glean from this extremely brief recount of their visit is simply that they came and worshiped the Christ-child. No conversion to Judaism is implied, but reverence for one they thought to be the Messiah. The Pharisees had no clue, but these men from a distant land were able to hear the proclamation of God and respond appropriately.

    “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (2:12). Herod would not have his way with these men and had no authority over them, so they simply left.

    Unaware of what was happening right in front of them, the baby Jesus was born and began to grow in the little town of Bethlehem. Few heard the announcement and responded, most had no idea of the baby next door. I wonder if I’m so caught up in my affairs that I would miss something so significant happening today. I don’t think we’ll miss Jesus’ triumphant re-entry! But what about the neighbor who needs a hand, someone who needs to hear the word of God this morning? Are we listening to the Spirit’s prompting? Lord, please help me to keep my ears and eyes open to those in need, to see what is right in front of me, that which you have led me to participate in.

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