"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him." (Matthew 2:1,2, KJV).
These wise men (magoi, in Greek) from the East were consecrated philosophers, seekers after the wisdom that comes from God. "The wise in heart discern time and judgment" Eccl. 8:5. The fulness of prophetic time had come for the Messiahís appearing, see Gal. 4:4,5. In the days of Christ, human philosophy had run its course. All the great Gentile thinkers (e.g. Plato, Confucius, Mencius, Buddha, Zoroaster, etc.) had done their work centuries before; now all that remained was the elaboration of their theories, and endless variations on their themes. This superstructure of ethereal abstractions and sterile ethics, mingled with myths and fables, was creaking and the world was weary. People sensed that something vital was missing. Godís Spirit was awakening deep desires for holiness in the human heart, see Isaiah 42:1-6; Haggai 2:7; Matthew 4:14-16.
Some men were ready to look higher than their own thoughts, and far above the sphere of their knowledge. Such were the wise men -- the Magi of Persia, who came in quest of Him that was born King of the Jews. Through the spiritual legacy of Daniel and Ezra, who had served the Lord in Babylon and Persia, these Magi had access to the sacred writings of Israel. They recognized the voice of inspiration in those writings and were especially drawn to the prophetic elements in Godís word.
Through the threefold combination of the Spiritís direct leading through visions and dreams, the diligent study of Hebrew Scripture, and the miraculous sign in heaven serving as a beacon of guidance, these Magi set forth on their quest with solid confidence, bearing gifts for Heavenís incarnate King. In their stated purpose for visiting Judea, we discover three blended beams of glorious light, three beams that capture the essence of Christmas splendor.
The beam of spiritual inquiry: Where is He that is born King of the Jews? Thus the wise men intimated, "We seek the ultimate King of righteousness (described in Psalm 72). We seek the prophesied Redeemer (Isa. 49:7,8). We seek for the Desire of all nations and ages (Hag. 2:7). Our seeking Him is only the echo of our response to the love of Him who came to seek and save that which was lost, and draw all men unto Himself by His being lifted up from the earth."
And ye shall seek Me and find Me, when ye search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord. Jer. 29:13,14 (cf. 2 Chron. 15:1-4).
The beam of spiritual vision: For we have seen His star in the east. This statement reflects the wise menís enlightened recognition of prophecy, see 2 Pet. 1:19-21; Num. 24:17. They carefully pondered Daniel 9:24,25 which foretold the time of Christís appearing, and the character of His mission. To confirm the validity of their studies and spiritual impressions, God caused a star to shine over their land, a star of unusual brightness and stately movement, a star not previously known in the astronomic charts, and hence worthy of special notice.
Do you also see His star -- it is pre-eminent, outshining all other lights. Rev. 22:16. He wants us to discern His celestial purpose in lifeís unfolding tapestry of events, so that we might be His agents to give knowledge of salvation . . through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us. This Star of stars came not to dazzle, but to illuminate, liberate, and regenerate, see Isa. 61:1-4. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.
Jesus did not gravitate to where human greatness was, but to where human need stood out in the framework of poverty, desperation and friendlessness. He did not preside over great religious councils and conventions; He was never the keynote speaker at any officially organized gathering of religious or political leaders. He taught in the open fields and never passed the collection plate; although He often passed the distribution basket from which people ate substantially of bread that had passed though His own hands, and undergone miraculous multiplication. Though His givingness, He teaches us to be givers also and not mere consumers.
Lord that I might receive my sight. That the eyes of my understanding may be enlightened to discern Your glory and Your royally bountiful love to me, a sinner, that I might live a fit representative of Thine. Eph. 1:18,19.
The beam of spiritual purpose: And are come to worship Him. Not interested in merely discoursing and debating about their findings, the wise men embarked on a practical expedition. They came in search of Israelís King for the express purpose of worshiping Him. "We come to pay homage to Him, to worship and follow Him. We have not come to enlist Him in our cause, or to dignify our plans, but to yield to His sovereign authority, to place ourselves unreservedly at His service." Read Matt. 2:9-11. All whom make the same commitment, even today, are elevated and ennobled by the result. Jn. 12:24-26; 8:12.
Worship, both ancient and modern, is often associated with rituals, pomp and great display, a sort of choreographed piety, as artificial as it is impressive -- to our sublunary senses. Such worship is a vehicle for self-aggrandizement.
True worship of God, however, is embodied not so much in the fine and formal acts of life, in its pageants and ceremonies, but by the manifestation of His life in our own, the exercise of His spirit of service, the impartation of His all-effectual wisdom to those around us -- without seeking great things for ourselves, but even shunning undue notice, lest that obscure the glory of our Master whom we adore and wish to magnify to the world. Consider Jn. 4:23,24 contra Rev. 13:8.
Those who so worship Him become royal priests, subjects of Christís holy nation composed of all who keep the truth through the power of His grace. 1 Pet. 2:9. Such live to be a blessing, rather than to exploit religion for temporal success and the rationalization of unholy ambitions.
"How silently, how silently
The wondrous Gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
"No ear may hear His coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in."
"We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell Ė
Oh, come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel." (Phillips Brooks, 1868)
Brian Jones pastors the Seventh-day Adventist congregations in Gassaway, Glenville, and Spencer, which broadcasts the gospel 24 hours a day on WMCC 105.7, LP-FM.