Well, all my good intentions for making my second Christmas post last week evaporated with, well last week! So my next good intention is to do two this week! Anyway, my reading this week included a passage of Scripture which stood out to me: Matthew 2:1-2, which tells of an extraordinary cosmic event which became part of all the wonder that accompanies Christmas. In other words, what is all the anticipation for? After so long without a prophet, and so many prophecies yet to be fulfilled, the Jewish people had to have been yearning for something to happen! But, as we learn in Matthew 2, it wasn’t just the Jews who noticed!
Matthew 2:1-2 –Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
The Star of Bethlehem, a supernatural event which drew these oriental men to worship Jesus, the prophesied Messiah of a people who were not even their own. A strange thing to do, some might say, but even these men, who were not Jews, knew that there was something special, something monumental, happening in this humble place. They knew to worship at His feet. They also brought gifts, not as a bribe to get something, not because they thought His family was “in need,” but because He was royalty and worthy of the best they had to offer.
Interesting side note: there are a lot of “Manger scenes” which depict the Magi at Jesus’ birth, but a careful reading will reveal this to be a false interpretation! In fact, it must have taken some time for the Magi to travel from the East (some commentators speculate that they came from Persia) to see Jesus. Matt 2:11 states that the Magi came to a “house” not a manger. According to the Jewish laws, a woman had a period of 40 days of confinement after giving birth to a male child (Leviticus 12:1-8) and then she was to take an offering to the temple. Luke 2:21-22 says that Mary and Joseph went to the temple to do this, so they had to have remained in Bethlehem at least that long. They departed for Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath sometime after this forty days and also after the visit of the Magi, as recorded in Luke, but before Jesus was 2 years old, because based on the Magi’s calculations, Herod killed all the male children 2 years old and younger, in order to be “sure” to eliminate Jesus as the “King” of the Jews. So Jesus was older than 40 days and younger than 2 years when the Magi visited Him.
I have included a link to a rather nice version (in my opinion) of the most famous carol about the magi: “We Three Kings.” I like the song but despite what the words say, there is no definitive evidence in Scripture that there were three magi, just that there was more than one, because it says “men.” Perhaps the fact that three gifts were mentioned gave rise to the popular belief that there were three magi? Quite different from the “traditional” Nativity scene with three Magi and the shepherds at the manger together, isn’t it?