Sunday, December 19, 2010
The Gifts of the Magi -- Matthew 2:1-12
There were three different responses to the birth of Christ.
1. Of Herod -- He was Jewish by birth, but had no spiritual background. He was ruthless and brutal. He killed all he suspected wanted his throne including his wives and children. He was not of the line of David so was not the rightful king of Israel. And he knew this. So when a huge caravan comes into his city asking where the king of the Jews is, he is upset. They have legitimate proof -- they have seen a star. This was very important in that day. The heavens foretold the rising and setting of kings. There was also a prophecy of the Star of Bethlehem. People listened to those who observed the stars. Herod took this very seriously. People still take stars seriously -- the Horoscope. But God, not the stars, controls everything. Herod decides not to make his own decision, but calls his counselors and priests to him. Some people derive their ideas about God from the media. They don't go straight to the source, but get ideas from the ones who are speaking the loudest.
2. Of the Religious Scribes -- They don't hesitate to tell Herod where the Christ is to be born. They knew instantly. The scribes were the legal experts. They were well versed in Jewish law and the Torah. They had studied and it was part of them. But their response is nothing. They don't do anything but give Herod his answer. Their response was neither good nor bad. It was indifference. Are we so familiar with the Christmas story that we have lost the awe of it?
3. Of the Magi -- Who are they? They were not kings. They were not royal. Magi is translated as "wise men" but they were so much more than that. Magi = magic. Most scholars believe they were from Babylon or around there. There was a religious belief called Zoasterism -- a Babylonian version of Judaism. They could have been of this. Another theory is that when Judah was exiled to Babylon and then were allowed to return to their own country, many Jews stayed behind. They had businesses and established lives in Babylon. These men could have been descendants of these people. A third theory is that these were pagans who studied the stars and ancient manuscripts. They felt a powerful ruler was born that they needed to pacify and make peace with. We don't know if they fully understood what they were doing when they came to worship.
We don't need to know everything right now, but we need to take action to learn more and spread the gospel.
The gift of the Magi was not the gold, frankincense and myrrh, but their journey thousands of miles to worship the Christ child.