A Special Star for a Special Birth

2020-01-05 – Year A – Christmas 2 – The Rev. Christopher M. Klukas
Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 84; Ephesians 1:3-14; Matthew 2:1-12

International Uproar

  • Imagine what it must have been like to see these Magi entering the city of Jerusalem, probably with a large entourage, and making their way to the Palace of Herod the King.
    • They went straight to the king’s house in the capital city because that is the most likely place where you would find a new baby who is born as King of the Jews.
  • The wise men are “magos” magicians or astrologers. Probably from Arabia or Babylonia.
    • The kinds of practices that they likely engaged in were prohibited in the law. Things like astrology, fortune-telling, and sorcery.
    • The New Testament is just as condemning of sorcery and fortune-telling as the Old Testament was. These are practices that have no place in the Christian life.
  • “God’s use of their astrological and cultural background to communicate with [the Magi] does not imply his endorsement of astrology, but indicates his care in meeting individuals where they are.”
    • Today, there are reports of Jesus appearing in dreams to Muslims in parts of the world where it is very difficult for Christian missionaries to gain access.
    • We can’t expect people to behave like Christians before they have accepted Jesus as Lord of their life. Just like Jesus, we need to find ways to spend time with the “tax collectors and sinners” of our own day.
  • One of the things I love about this story is the way it baffles those who try to identify exactly what this “star” in the sky was.
    • Today skeptics might scoff at this story.
    • “…the search for astronomical parallels to a divine communication is unlikely to be profitable (see on v. 2). To the Magi it brought not critical embarrassment but great joy!”
  • It is possible that the Magi may have heard of a Jewish prophesy about a king whose birth was to be marked by a star (see Numbers 24:17). But how would a normal sign in the sky come to rest over the place where the child was.
  • Jerusalem is only about 5 miles from Bethlehem. They could have walked there in about an hour and 45 minutes. It would be hard to tell the difference from an astronomer’s POV.
  • I like to think that this sign was something that God specifically created to celebrate the birth of his Son! Kind of like the “it’s a boy” signs you sometimes see in a front yard!
  • A special sign for a special birth.

Jew or Gentile

  • One of the amazing things that this story celebrates is the fact that Jesus’s birth was announced to both Jews and Gentiles.
    • In last week’s Epistle lesson we read the fully developed doctrine that is hinted at in the visitation of the Magi. Galatians 3:26–29
    • All those to whom the birth was announced were outcasts. Herod was not notified, he had to hear it second hand, and he didn’t take the news well.
      • Last Saturday was the feast of the Holy Innocents when we remember all of the children who were murdered by Herod as he was trying to crush the threat of a rival king.
      • Tyrants rule with an iron fist because they are insecure
    • Matthew 7:6 – “Pearls before swine”
    • Compare Herod to John the Baptist.
      • John says of Jesus “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30.
      • We must come to Jesus as he came to us, in humility.

Worship with Gifts

  • So how did the Magi respond to the news announced by this sign in the heavens?
    • They saddled up their camels, gathered their gifts, and departed on a long journey.
  • Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh were all very costly items. These are not your average baby shower gifts. They were not bringing extra swaddling cloths or a crib to replace the manger! These are the kind of gifts that you would give to a king.
    • The giving of these gifts fit for a king may be a reminder of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, the Son of David, when she brought gold and spices.
    • Perhaps this was a state visit, official representatives of one nation coming with official gifts to acknowledge the birth of a new King.
    • And yet, the Greek word used here for “worship” is only used in the NT toward a divine object. When the Magi fall down and worship Jesus (Matthew 2:11) they are worshipping him as divine. 
  • The incarnation of Jesus is a gift for all who choose to receive it. Rich or poor, black or white, Asian or Latino.
  • Our response to this gift is to acknowledge him and pay homage to him. To worship him.

In the Bleak Midwinter, Christina Rossetti “What can I give him, poor as I am? / If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; / if I were a wise man, I would do my part; / yet what I can I give him–give my heart.”

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