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“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: Matthew 2:5 (NLT)

When the Magi came to Jerusalem looking for the new King, we are told that all Jerusalem was in an uproar over their question. By now Jesus was perhaps two years old. The rumors about the baby in the manger had most likely died away. After all, even back in Biblical days the idea of a Messiah being born in a manger, of angels singing to a bunch of neighbors, and the young mother being an unmarried teenager from the small, obscure hamlet of Nazareth seemed pretty preposterous.

When Herod came to the priests to seek an answer to the Magi’s question they were quick to quote scripture to him. They knew full well that location of the birth a new King. It was spelled out clearly by the prophecy in Micah as well as by other prophets. The signs were there.

Jesus would say later in his ministry, when asked about his return, to watch for the signs. Dates and times weren’t for us to know. When buds form on trees and flowers push through the hard ground of winter you know spring is coming. When you see wars, rumors of war, political and relational turmoil, an increase in sin and other abominations, you know I’m coming back.

In the same way, there were many signs that the coming of the Messiah was close. Who knows but that there were many babies born around Jesus time in which people asked: “Is this him? Could this be Messiah? It had been 400 years since there were any prophecies spoken. Four hundred years of silence by God, four hundred years of waiting by the people. Four hundred years to grow complacent and skeptical.

Did they see the star as well and choose to ignore it? Did they hear the rumors and spend their time determining why this could not be the way God would do things? Did their skepticism keep them from seeing the ‘handwriting on the wall’?

Dead faith is faith in which we refuse to look at the answers. We see the truth and decide to follow only those that don’t interfere with our own plans, our own ambitions, our own interpretation and determination of how God works. Dead faith is unable to see God’s handiwork because we are blinded by our own ideas, our own traditions, our own determination of God’s ability to fulfill his promises.

Dead faith is religion. We aren’t called to follow religious dogmas. We are called to relationship with a living Savior. Dead faith follows an unapproachable God. Relationship can only happen with a  living being. Our God is not dead or unapproachable.

Not a single priest offered to go check out the story the Magi told them. Not a single religious leader took enough interest in their story to see if maybe, just maybe it really was the Messiah. It simply wasn’t important enough to them. It wasn’t worth their time.

PRAYER: Father, you show us on a daily basis, through your Word and your Spirit, how we should live. May we never be guilty of ignoring the ‘stars’ the signs in our lives. Help us to see you clearly and act on what we know. Amen.


When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, as were all the people in Jerusalem. Matthew 2:3 (NCV)

Not everyone was happy when the news came of a newborn baby and the rumors of the Messiah being born. Tradition teaches us that Jesus was most likely an inquisitive little two-year-old by the time the Magi appeared in Jerusalem.

No doubt the goings on in Bethlehem had reached the streets of Jerusalem by then, but the stories were most likely, largely unsubstantiated. A few shepherds coming into town to tell of the miraculous birth would carry little clout. They were, after all, shepherds. Besides, most likely the new family had returned home to some little, insignificant town…Nazareth. After all, it was common knowledge that a king would be born anyplace other than Bethlehem, and a Nazarite? Not a chance.

But just about the time that the rumors had completely died, a caravan arrived in town looking for the new king of Israel and they caused quite a commotion.

King Herod had no right to the throne he inhabited. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He got to his position of power through violence, rage and deception. He ruled with an iron fist. If you followed Herod, you were safe. But no one dared cross him.

There were others worried about the rumors as well. The priests and others who were content in their tradition were nervous about making any waves with Herod. He allowed them to practice their religion as long as it didn’t interfere with his program. Tradition does that. It brings us to a place of complacency.

Complacency. Contentment. Religious tradition. All the things that kept Jerusalem quiet. But the Messiah was never about coming to bring complacency, he was about coming to expose the injustice of power and free those under its grasp.

No wonder then that all Jerusalem was in an uproar over the news of a new king. They didn’t want their way of life disturbed; their tradition tampered with; their religion shown to be full of hypocrisy and allegiance to a God-less King. They were unwilling to take a stand and uninterested in God changing them. They were more worried about the earthly King than they were excited about Messiah, God with us.

Not much has changed since the Magi came to Jerusalem that day. People are still content to worship their own way; still content to live safe lives steeped in tradition without making waves. Staying obscure is staying safe.

But that little two-year old the Magi visited doesn’t call us to complacency. He doesn’t call us to be safe. He calls us to a new life built on relationships, not rules. Our Father doesn’t work in ways the world expects, he works in ways that bring dramatic, life-long change.

PRAYER: Holy Father, I thank you today for the babe in the manger. The Magi remind us all that we should never be complacent in looking for you. They remind us that you work in ways we don’t expect. Empower us to be watchful for your working. Amen.

 


They asked, “Where is the baby who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”Matthew 2:2 (NCV)

There is, perhaps, no time in the mind of a child (of any age) more full of expectancy and anticipation than Christmas. The excitement and wonder of the lights; the brightly colored packages and the hopes that are within them all add to the anticipation.

Will I get that bicycle I’ve always wanted? Will the doll that talks be in this package? Will I finally get that video game I’ve been hinting about all year? I hope…oh, I hope it’s what I think it is. Will he give me the ring at Christmas? The princess thinks with a noticeable twinkle in her eye.

One year my nephew put socks on his Christmas list. Since he worked hard and worked outdoors often, we decided that would be a good, useful gift for him. So we bought him a couple packages and wrapped them with sincerity and love. Unfortunately, so did everyone else in the family. Yep, that’s right. EVERYONE. 25 packages of socks! Needless to say his anticipation was smashed and he never asked for socks at Christmas again!

The promise of a coming messiah was hundreds of years old by the time the star finally appeared in the sky. It had been so long that many had forgotten about it, thus it went unnoticed by the priests, the King and everyone else.

We aren’t told exactly where the Magi were, only that they were ‘east of Jerusalem’. What we do know is that their anticipation, their expectancy never waned, not for a moment. I wonder what it was like when the first of them noticed the star. Night after night of watching. For many an entire lifetime of watching! But then. Then the night came when someone said, “Look! There it is! In the western sky! He’s here! He’s been born!”

Did you get goose bumps? I’ll bet he did. Did the excitement almost overwhelm you? I imagine it did overwhelm him. Had there been cell phones back then he’d have awakened every one of his colleagues.

“The King has been born. We must hurry. Get the caravan ready. Load the Camels with gifts. Hurry. He’s been born!”

Jesus says we must be like children in our faith. May we be like children in our ‘expectancy’ as well. May this Christmas season rekindle the excitement we had as children, only let that excitement be due to the coming of the Christ-child.

The Magi are known for their gifts, but gifts wasn’t their main reason for coming, worship was. In the same way, as we look forward to the Christmas season; as we enjoy the company of family and friends we rarely see; as we enjoy the giving and receiving of gifts and sharing all those holiday goodies, may we remember to worship the King.

PRAYER: Father, I love Christmas. I love everything about Christmas, the lights, the food, the music, the gifts. But in the hustle and bustle of this holiday season please remind me to worship you for sending Jesus. Amen.

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