We would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday to all who celebrate differently.
Here are some thoughts to reflect upon this year:
Around this time of year I often find myself turning my eyes towards the sky – the stars come out so early that it is difficult to resist the urge to observe the amazing sights. This year as I did that, I was reminded of the story of the scholars (Magi) from the East. I wanted to learn more about their story, so I looked up a few things.
Did you know that around the time of Jesus’ birth, Jupiter and Saturn were aligned in an extremely rare astrological event – many people believe this was the “star” that the scholars saw that led them to the manger. The word “Magi” refers to a group of scholars during Jesus’ time that were dedicated to the study of astrology (this subject was the predecessor to astronomy and advanced math). Magi were very attune to movements in the stars and the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter was sure to attract their attention – a sign from God that something important was happening.
The scholars played a critical role in the Christmas story. Because they had faith in their studies and that God was giving them a sign, they set out to find what they were supposed to see. In the meantime, King Herod heard they were looking for the King of the Jews, became nervous, and plotted to kill the baby – a plot that was sabotaged by the scholars.
The Message translation of the Bible portrays the story of the scholars this way:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory – this was during Herod’s kingship – a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”
When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified – and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly: It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear. From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.”
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”
Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and return to their own country. (Matthew 2: 1-12)
One sentence from the passage speaks to me more than any other: “Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him.” I can only imagine how it must have felt to be there, to be a witness to the beginning of the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of prophecy. This Christmas, I encourage you to reflect upon the impact the scholars had on the story of Jesus’ birth and imagine yourself in their shoes. How wonderful it would have been to witness it first hand! One day we will all be able to experience the joy of seeing Jesus when he comes again.