As Seen On Sunday: Jesus' Unlikely Visitors
Verse of the Week
We know that you are not pleased with us.
We pretend to know you, but we just have preconceived notions of you.
We have not sought you out.
Even when you sent us signs we did not turn.
Help us respond to your star, heed your angels, and see you in the temple.
The most unexpected people are those who take notice of God.
This week we take a look at the Christmas story. The familiar story goes like this. Young Marry is visited by an angel who tells her that she will become pregnant without a man. The man that she is engaged to finds out that she is pregnant but has a dream telling him not to leave her. They end up having to travel to Bethlehem for a census, which is where Marry ultimately has the baby.
They could not stay “in the Inn.” I have heard it described that they were in a cave or stable where the animals were kept, but I don't know. Early tradition says a cave being used a stable. All I know is they couldn't get a room and Marry had to put her baby in a manger.
But something amazing happened. People they did not know came to see them and their baby! Shepherds were told by angels, while in the fields, to come and see her baby. They had left their flocks to come see the baby that was said to be Christ the Lord.
Fast forward about a year and a half “magi from the east” show up in Jerusalem asking Herod the great where the King of the Jews is. Herod isn’t as thrilled as these guys are about a new king being born, especially since He currently is king over the Jews as appointed by the Romans. The magi are given a dream to go home a different way and Herod responds to be duped by having all the Jewish boys 2 and younger killed.
The magi, “three kings” have been a staple of the Christmas story for a while now, but are they really? We have nativity scenes with shepherds and wise men but they never met. So what’s the deal with these two groups?
Well, let's look at the Shepherds first. They must have been close by. Some speculate that, based on their hypothetical proximity to town, that they would have been keeping sheep for the temple. Something interesting that I thought of but you can't really take from the text is that the keepers of the sacrificial lambs went to visit the Lamb who would be slain for all mankind. But really, why would angels show up and tell Shepherds to go see Jesus?
I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they would actually go. We don’t know if anyone else saw them and did not respond. The lowly shepherds did. Jesus’ first visitors were not people of notoriety but of the working class. In fact, their job made them “unclean” which is slightly irritating to me that they were raising the sacrifices but were unclean themselves. Think about this, though: the unclean, unliked shepherds came to see the newborn king who would go on to break convention when He healed on the sabbath and touched unclean people. It was not the religious elites that knew the ins and outs of the law and prophecy, “it is not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick.” The shepherds were a group that would have been seen as needing help versus the religious elites who thought they had it all together. One saw the birth of the savior and one missed him.
Then we come to the magi, the second group of people coming to look for Jesus. They are a different group. They aren't Jews. They are from far off. And they are late. At least 40 days late based on Jesus being dedicated at the Temple, but Herod has all the Jewish boys 2 and under killed so Jesus may have been up to two years old. So they missed his birth and maybe his first birthday - who do they think they are?
They weren't invited by a chorus of Angels. Why would they even care about the savior of the Jews? What are they doing there? And for that matter who are they?
We don't really know who they were. We can only speculate that they were astrologers since they were following a star, so we assume they studied the stars. Somehow they knew enough of Jewish prophecy to know that this mysterious star meant that the King of the Jews had been born, which lead them to Jerusalem to inquire where they could pay homage to this new born king, going as far as saying that they wanted to worship Him.
Let me put this plainly, pagan astrologers came to worship Jesus because they saw it in the stars and they brought expensive gifts.
I find that really cool. I feel as if we loose some of that awe when we call them kings or wise men but when we call them the magi… just makes them more of a distinct group to me. Not some white washed group, but foreigners came to see the savior of the world.
So what’s my point to talking about both of these groups visiting baby Jesus?
Neither group is what is expected:
One the outcast;
The other the outsiders;
Both loved by God.
This Christmas season as we remember the story of our Lord’s birth, I want to remind us why He was born in the first place. The word became flesh and dwelt among us because God so loved the world that He sent his one and only begotten son, that who soever would believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Lamenting for those who do not know Jesus is now a rare practice.
I see the Jesus’ message wrapped up in the two groups. Jesus came so that anyone who believed could know him. Rich and poor. Those who were truly looking found him.
As we prepare to lament when society is talking about happiness through wealth, we must remember that Jesus was placed in a feeding trough, the sacrificed offered was the poor people one, and the gifts from the magi were probably the largest sums they would have ever seen. Jesus was the king of kings but entered the world with meager means. Yet, Marry treasured all of this in her heart.
The EC Challenge
How will we respond to the star this year? Will we see it as a threat to our power? or will we seek out the one that the star predicts?