Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“For you are recognizing more strongly and clearly the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, His kindness, His gracious generosity, His undeserved favor and spiritual blessing, in that though He was so very rich, yet for your sakes He became so very poor, in order that by His poverty you might become enriched and abundantly supplied.”
II Corinthians 8:9
“Had (Jesus) remained upon His throne of glory, and had we continued in the ruins of the fall without receiving His salvation, communion would have been impossible on both sides…In order, that communion might be compassed, it was necessary that the rich kinsman should bestow his estate upon his poor relatives, that the righteous Savior should give to His sinning brethren of His own perfection, and that we, the poor and guilty, should receive of His fullness grace for grace; that thus in giving and receiving, the one might descend from the heights, and the other ascend from the depths, and so be able to embrace each other in true and hearty fellowship…Jesus must clothe His people in His own garments, or He cannot admit them into His palace of glory, and He must wash them in His own blood, or else they will be too defiled for the embrace of His fellowship. O believer, herein is love! For your sake the Lord Jesus ‘became poor’ that He might lift you up into communion with Himself.”
Morning by Morning
Today’s Study Text:
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east at its rising and have come to worship Him.”
Matthew 2:1, 2
“He Came To Them First” – “The Wise Men”
“Eyes Heavenward Hands - Bearing Gifts”
Across the Desert Sands
“Across the desert sands,
Between the forest trees,
Through frozen wastes and fertile lands
And over swelling seas,
By villages and towns,
Rough path and winding road
By craggy peaks and rolling downs
I bear a precious load;
Gold of the world’s wealth,
Incense for worship,
Myrrh meaning sorrow,
Love beyond telling.
A star that glimmers gold and red,
They’re drawing me along,
And when the journey’s done
I hope to meet my King
And lay before Him one by one
The gifts I come to bring…
Now come, O come with me,
All you whose hearts are stirred,
Together we shall surely see
The light of God’s own word,
And as we go we’ll raise
With all our might and main
A pilgrim carol full of praise
A tender sweet refrain.”
If I had been traveling with the Magi, following a star in the sky, what do I think my feelings would have been?
What does it tell us about the Magi’s belief in the “Christ-child” that they came bearing gifts before ever seeing Him?
“The Magi worshipped this (baby) even when it lay in a manger. Those heathen foreigners left home and country and went on a long journey, and came and worshipped Him with fear and great trembling. We are citizens of heaven; let us imitate these foreigners.”
The Kings of the East
“The Kings of the East are riding
To-night to Bethlehem.
The sunset glows dividing,
The Kings of the East are riding;
A star their journey guiding,
Gleaming with gold and gems
The Kings of the East are riding
To-night to Bethlehem.”
Katherine Lee Bates
Of all the Advent stories, the words penned by the disciple Matthew, have always engaged my mind in thoughtful consideration. I find it interesting that it is only Matthew, the publican, and the tax-collector who made a point to leave us the record of the wise men whose eyes had been focused upward on the heavens while their hands were filled with earthly gifts bound for the baby who they believed to be the King of the Jews. Since Matthew knew a great deal about the acquisition of possessions, I find it noteworthy that after being called by Jesus, Matthew chose to rid himself from those things that weighed him down. The generous spirit of giving witnessed in the wise men’s lives must have touched a cord in Matthew’s heart. So as we read his account of the wise men, there are several important thoughts I’d like to call to our attention.
According to Matthew 2: 2, these foreigners asked about baby Jesus around the city of Jerusalem for their inquiries reached King Herod who became “disturbed and troubled.” Competition for power didn’t sit well with the menacing nature of King Herod who regarded himself as supreme Roman ruler of the Jews. In fact, Herod was so upset he “called together” all the chief priests, hoping to get to the bottom of the rumor mill. Herod wanted to stifle any potential threat to his power so he also asked the scribes (learned Jewish men) to see if there was any thing in the Jewish history which made reference to where “Christ was to be born.” Sure enough, the scribes pinpointed a place, Bethlehem of Judea. To be exact, the Old Testament prophet Micah left this record: ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, you are little to be among the clans of Judah; yet out of you shall One come forth for Me Who is to be Ruler in Israel. Whose goings forth have been from of old, from ancient days, eternity” (Micah 5: 2, Amplified Bible). This historical documentation didn’t do a thing to make the wily Herod feel any better. Herod sent for the wise men, secretly! You can see what is happening. Herod didn’t want to give any more publicity to Jesus’ birth than necessary. And so he decided to use an underhanded method to enlist the help of the wise men. He got them to tell him what their mission was all about. As Matthew writes, Herod “accurately, to the last point ascertained from the (the wise men) the time of the appearing of the star, that is, how long the star had made itself visible since its rising in the east” (Matthew 2: 7, Amplified Bible).
But Herod didn’t just stop by having these brilliant men from the east tell him what they had witnessed in the night sky. He further asked for them to be his undercover agents and go to Bethlehem where they were to diligently search for the baby that was born.
As I reread Matthew’s report about the Magi, it was apparent that Herod’s craftiness actually supported, not only the Old Testament record about Jesus’ birth, but also what the wise men in detailed study of the sky had concluded. It is a fact that without collaboration, the scribes study of Scripture and the wise men’s study of the stars both aligned. And so, because Herod was impressed by the knowledge presented to him, he came up with his own side story. The information the wise men would relay to him could help him find the child so he, too, could worship the baby. This was Herod’s tall tale and he was sticking to it! In Herod’s words he said, “Go and search for the child diligently, and when you have found Him, bring me word, that I may come and worship Him” (Matthew 2: 8).
After paying close attention to Herod, the Magi left on their continuing journey to Bethlehem and upon arrival, the star they had seen in the east, stood over the place where the young Child was (Matthew 2: 9). It is the next verse, Matthew 2: 10 which conveys a joy that should ever embrace you and me as we “ponder” the gift of Jesus to our lonely planet each Christmas: “When they saw the star, they were thrilled with ecstatic joy.” If ecstatic joy is not what fills our hearts each Christmas season, then we aren’t seeing heaven’s gift to earth the way the wise men saw the baby Jesus. It is the “wise” who realize that when Jesus Christ was born, release from the bondage of sin was given to each one of us.
May the words of Ruth C. Duck’s prayer about the wise men’s journey leave each one of us with lifted voices in praise for God’s promise fulfilled:
“God of all people and all places, like the Magi we would journey into the presence of Jesus the Christ. There we would offer our gifts, before Christ, we would lay the realities of our lives, good and bad. We offer our joy and love and laughter, that they might be made holy; we relinquish our bitterness and hatred and worry, that we might be made whole once more; through the living Spirit of Christ.”
Star of God,
and guide our wondering world
to where a prince of Peace is born.
Where children wish upon a star
or wise men scan the universe in hope
let Your bright beams
surround their dreams
and guide their hesitating feet
to where a miracle is born.
Enable each of us
to make a New Year’s journey
leaving behind the prejudices and fears
embracing a fresh openness
by which we welcome all world pilgrims
whose journeys end in humility and worship.
Be a sign today
of mercy and of love
like a rainbow in spring
or the bright summer sun,
and show us how our lives
can include the forgotten and forlorn,
the grieving and the hurt.
And we will offer
to our God
now seen and touched in straw-filled bed
the best gifts in the world:
our joy…our life.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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