So here we are, the manger scene is set. Mary and Joseph are in the stable, the baby Jesus is in the manger; the shepherds have come to visit. Then, here come the Kings to steal the show… In every nativity pageant there is this regal moment when the 3 Kings enter the picture, with their glitter crowns and colorful costumes. And the Kings come bearing gifts. In all of my years producing the Children’s Christmas Eve pageant at church, I never had any trouble casting the kings. Seriously, given the choice between a scrap of brown material tied around your head or a crown… the crown wins every time. For a moment, let’s get past the glitter and the gold and look closely at the three men who visit Jesus.
First, to find the Wise Men, we have to stay in the Gospel of Matthew. That is the only place where the visit of these men. Interesting note: in the Greek, Matthew uses the word μάγοι which means Magi. Translators have added the term “wise men”… because Magi were known to be astrologers who were in fact “wise”. And the crowns:…well, history has added that; it makes a better entrance.
Matthew 2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
Look at how that begins. “In the time of King Herod.” Matthew sets the date and let’s us know that the story is taking a political turn. These verses take us into an involved story where the Magi go into Jerusalem and start asking about the King of the Jews, not such a “wise” move. Yes, these “wise men” go into King Herod’s court and ask about another King… the King of the Jews which brings Herod into the story; no good comes from that. I have wondered just what the “wise men” were doing in Jerusalem. They were astrologers following a star. All they had to do was follow that star, but somewhere along the line they were distracted by the bright lights of the city. Maybe they had doubts. Maybe they wanted confirmation. But their misguided track into the city would take the story into a dark, dark place. Herod asks the Magi to come back after they find Jesus. They do not, and in response (according to Matthew) Herod would order the murder of all Jewish baby boys under two in an attempt to kill Jesus.
So what about the star? The star that led the Wise Men to search for the baby Jesus. I’ve been fascinated by the star that “stopped over the place where Jesus lay.” Can a star stop? Is this really a star as we know stars today?
More on that tomorrow.
Grace and Peace at Advent