Editor's Note: Although written for use on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, you may choose to save this devotion for Epiphany, Jan. 6. That is the day the church has traditionally celebrated the visit of the wise men.
Christmas Eve or Christmas Day: Wise MenThe past couple of weeks, we’ve talked about how God’s people had waited a long time for the Messiah. An angel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would have a baby. This baby would be Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. Then an angel appeared to Joseph, her fiancee, in a dream. The angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because Jesus was a very special baby. (Read more here.) Then they had to walk 100 miles over several days to get to Bethlehem for a special census. Pregnant Mary may have ridden a donkey, but it was still a long trip. When the got to Bethlehem, there were so many people that all the inns, the hotels, were full. One innkeeper was nice to them and said they could stay in the barn so they would at least have a place to sleep. That is where Mary had baby Jesus. His first bed was a feed trough full of hay. (Read more here.) That same night, a bunch of shepherds were watching over their sheep. Suddenly an angel appeared announcing "good news that will cause great joy for all people" (Luke 2:9). This angel told them that the long-awaited Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. The shepherds went and found the baby laying in a feed trough, wrapped in soft cloths, just like the angel said. After they left the stable, the shepherds told everyone what had happened. When they returned to their jobs watching sheep, they were still praising God. (Read more here.) The next part of the story didn't happen for about two years. In that time, Mary and Joseph found a house and started living in it (Matthew 2:11). We don't know if they had it all to themselves or were sharing it with family or friends. Either way, I'm sure the house was a lot better than the barn! Let's see what happened.
Magi is another word for "wise men." Notice that it doesn't say how many wise men came from the east. There were probably many more than three people who came. We typically see three in nativity scenes because they brought three precious gifts for the newborn King. Before we get to that, let's take a minute to think about who these wise men were and where they came from. In the book of Daniel, we learn that Daniel became one of the "wise men" in Babylon (Daniel 2:13). In Daniel 2:1-4, we read that these wise men included astrologers, people who studied the stars. They know what was normal in the night sky and what was unusual and special. They would have seen the special star God placed in the sky and wondered what it meant. While the Bible doesn't say so directly, Daniel probably taught the wise men of Babylon the Old Testament. Here is why I think that happened. Daniel loved the Lord and worshipped Him, no matter what the consequences (Daniel 1:8-16; Daniel 6). He never gave into peer pressure and compromised his faith in the Lord God. He was also a high government official in his role as a wise man. In fact, he was in charge of all the wise men (Daniel 2:48). We also know that the wise men of Babylon valued learning and all forms of wisdom (Daniel 1:17-20). This would include the teachings of the Old Testament. This is why I think the Magi who followed the star knew about the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah, the king of the Jews. Let's see what happened next.
Matthew 2:1-12 (NIV)
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:The wise men brought special gifts for the Christ child which were very expensive. Gold is still valuable today. Frankincense and Myrrh are both used in incense and perfume. These gifts provided money for Joseph and Mary to take the baby Jesus to Egypt to protect Him from Herod's jealous anger (Matthew 2:13-23). I don't know about you, but I don't have expensive gifts to give Jesus. In fact, since Jesus is God and God made everything, God already owns everything. I cannot do enough good things to meet the perfect standard God requires (Matthew 5:48). Thankfully, Jesus grew up, died on the cross, and came back to life again. Now, if you or I turn away from our sin, the bad choices we make, and trust in Jesus, we will be saved. God gave US the best gift at that first Christmas. God gave us Jesus, our Savior and Lord. What He wants in return is our love, believing in Jesus, and trusting Him to save us from our sins. We love God and other people because God first loved us.
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
1 John 4:10 (NIRV)Here is what love is. It is not that we loved God. It is that he loved us and sent his Son to give his life to pay for our sins.
John 3:16-17 (NIRV)16 God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. 17 God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world. He sent his Son to save the world through him.