One of my favorite accounts surrounding the birth of Christ is the Magi from the east. Many movies, articles, and figurines depicting the wise presenting their gifts in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus are inconsistent with the Scripture. Matthew 2:9 says, “When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.” First, I am sure Matthew is able to distinguish the difference between an infant and a child. If he would have used the word “infant” or “baby” in describing Jesus, then we could assume the wise men were present at the stable. But, Matthew calls Jesus a “young child” indicating the Savior was not an infant. Second, Matthew 2:11 says, “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him.” Unlike the stable narrative which often appears in movies and plays; the wise men go into a house, not a stable. Third, King Herod orders the killing of every male child two years and under, “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16). It is my contention that the Magi started their journey when the star first appeared. Since the wise men traveled from Persia (Iran), the journey was a little over 1,000 miles and would have taken 18-24 months on a camel. The journey was dangerous so the Magi would not have traveled alone (see picture above). The wise men would have needed water, food, tents and other items for survival not to mention security. So, I believe the wise men didn’t arrive for nearly two years. This helps explain King Herod’s edict to kill all children two years and younger. In closing, the wise men stand as an exceptional model for the Christian faith. They blindly followed a star across many miles just to see this King, who was born to take on the sins of the world and bring redemption for those who believe in Him.
May God bless you this Christmas season!
Years ago at my first church in Bible College, I preached a sermon entitled: “Christmas without Christ.” It was an unusual Christmas sermon because most pastors preach on the Coming of the Messiah, the gift of salvation or even the place where Jesus was born. However, that Sunday I preached “what if” Christ had not come. I gave the congregation a litany of implications of Christmas without Christ: no beautiful Christmas carols, no Christmas tree, no presents under the tree, no Christmas shopping, no family gathered together to celebrate the joy of the season or days off work. Then, I drilled down a little deeper. There would be no forgiveness of sin, no redemption, no joy of eternal life, no peace with God, no hope of seeing loved ones again, and no presence of God in our lives. Then, I read the last words in the Old Testament, “else I come and strike the land with total destruction” (Malachi 4:6). Yeah, that is a sobering thought, isn’t it? I left the congregation stunned with those words and turned out every light in the sanctuary. We were in total darkness. You could have heard a pin drop. Then, I had one of the ushers turn the lights back on. Christmas without Christ isn’t pretty, is it? Thankfully, Christ did come and die on the cross for the sins of the world. We do have forgiveness, redemption, renewal with God and the hope of heaven in our hearts! Praise be to God in the highest for sending Jesus into our dark and dying world! So, while you’re shopping, singing and enjoying the Christmas season – remember, Christmas is about Christ from start to finish!
May the Lord who blessed us this Christmas season, bless your hearts with the peace of His presence!
I want to focus this week on how we carry out the work of ministry in our church. Engage: we engage God in worship and engage the lost by sharing the gospel. The primary mission of the church is worship and evangelism. Connect: we connect people to God’s Word for cultivating spiritual growth and for developing an authentic community environment. Serve: we serve in the church, our local community, and the world. So, how does Engage, Connect and Serve function on a practical level? As ministry teams meet to discuss events and make plans, the focus should be on how to include engage, connect and serve. For example, if the team is planning to have a special meal (e.g., Valentine’s Day dinner), there are numerous possibilities. The team could invite someone to speak on evangelism (love of God) or have a Bible study or request food for a local food bank. Anyone of these ideas would fit Engage, Connect or Serve. So, I would like the encourage all teams to begin thinking about how your team’s ministry plans will fit into the Engage, Connect and Serve model. Don’t be afraid to be creative! If you need help, please do not hesitate to talk to me. God Bless and thank you for serving Christ and the church!