Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 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” Matthew 2:7-8.
We have before us the well-known story of some strangers from the East.
We know them traditionally as the “Wise men”.
Who were these men?
Some suggest they were priests in the eastern religion – Zoroastrianism.
As part of their religious practice, they would practice astrology.
Much of what they practiced in their field, would have been condemned by Jewish standards.
These heathens, these ungodly pagan worshipers – certainly did not fit the mould of “good Christian folk”. Surely, they don’t belong in the whole Christmas story.
O, but friends, they do appear in the story – and not just an appearance, but Matthew makes them the heroes in his first story following the Saviours’ birth.
Aren’t you and I glad this morning, that God doesn’t look for the perfect; that He doesn’t reveal himself only to those who have everything figured out. Instead, here again we are shown that He reaches out to those who don’t necessarily fit the mould; those who fall outside the boundaries of what most would say is acceptable/normal.
The Magi should not be there.
They don't worship the right God. They are the ‘wrong’ race, the ‘wrong’ denomination, the ‘wrong’ religion. The Magi should not be there. But they are.
So, here we find these men – worshippers of false gods, no concept of the living God. But what is so awesome - they did not know the living God, but the living God knew them!
God meets them where they are at. They were Astrologers, they studied the stars – so God uses a star to catch their attention. He works through the channels they are familiar with to draw them to himself.
So begins their journey
This experience is not unique to the Magi. The Bible says that
“God has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Men and women in every time and place, whether in modern Western cities, or in the deep dark jungles of the Amazon, have a concept that there has to be more to life; that there has to be someone or something greater than themselves. We find mankind trying to discover, to chase after, to find this God.
I mentioned this previously: somebody once said there’s a God-shaped vacuum in the soul of man that cannot be filled with anything else but the living God. Sure, man tries to fill it in different ways:
we buy more stuff – maybe that can satisfy!
we play more sport; we have more “fun” – maybe that can satisfy!
But after all this searching – the hunger remains; the emptiness persists; we discover that stuff cannot satisfy.
St Augustine of Hippo made this statement:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
From a natural point of view - these men from the east appeared to have everything going for them: wealth, education, the whole package. But friends, even having all these things, they were still seeking; even having all this stuff could not satisfy or fill the God-void inside of them; so, they set out to seek Him.
They follow the star until it came to rest over the place where Jesus was, they knew that their searching had come to an end!
This Advent, in some way or another, we are following the “star”. Christmas carols, devotions, sermons all pointing us to the Saviour as the star did those wise men. Like these kings, may our hearts too be overjoyed, as we realise afresh that the God of this universe invites us to Himself. Irrespective of our backgrounds, our social status or the size of our bank accounts, around the manger, under the light of His love, the ground is level, we are welcome into His presence.
Dear Lord, the light of your love has drawn me,
To yourself, from the shadows of my past;
Help me be willing to trade these temporary treasures,
For eternal riches, life that will forever last.