December 17: Wise Joy!
December 17, 2015
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
by Josh Moody Each year our family has a tradition of opening one Advent Bible reading starting on December 1 and finishing on Christmas Day, December 25. This year I am sharing those Bible readings with some thoughts based on them for use as a devotional during this season. To receive these Advent readings directly in your inbox, sign up here. Matthew 2:1-2:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”The visit of the Magi, or the wise men, or the kings from the Orient, is one of the most well-known, best-loved, and at the same time least understood portions of the famous Christmas story. Who were the Magi? What does their arrival signify? Why is it included in the Christmas narrative? What are we meant to learn from their visit to discover Jesus? What was this “star” that they followed? Many different theories down through the years have been proposed regarding the nature of this “star,” and neither time nor space allow us now to survey them all and give an accurate, judicious assessment of their veracity. In brief, some have wondered whether it was some kind of shooting star, others whether it is some sort of well-known stellar event of various possibilities. Others have simply said that it was supernatural. We do, at least, have the time to be sure we do not misplace, or inadvertently confuse, the “supernatural.” Clearly, the birth of Jesus was supernatural by any orthodox biblical understanding, and so whether or not we think that God directly “moved” a star to lead the wise men, or whether he employed some other more “natural” event to accomplish the same end, the whole thing is nonetheless God-ordained, supernatural, and we who believe in the virgin birth need not balk at a moving star. There is no point in swallowing the camel of the incarnation to choke on the gnat of a star. If God is God, then he can do as he will. Normally, miracles do not occur. They are rare by definition; otherwise, they would not be called “miracles.” But we cannot rule them out of the possible and still maintain belief in a God of miracles as well. It is also quite possible that these “Magi,” the wise men, schooled in the ancient learned habit of watching the stars, would have interpreted a historic constellation as meaning a king, and a king of the Jews, and then have traveled to discover the meaning of this “sign,” in that sense “following the star.” At any rate, they are here. But why? What is the point of their arrival? They are an immediate, obvious, and clear message that this Jesus is King, not only of the Jews; He is King of the world, the universe, and “the east” as well. People are travelling from “afar” to worship him. Whether or not they fully understand the meaning of the One whom they worship (how could they fully understand, how can we fully understand?) is in one sense beside the point. They are there, symbolic of the universal reach of this particular King at this particular moment. They are paying him homage, are drawn by his majesty, and bow at his presence. This King is King of the Magi too. He is King of the learned as well as the simple, of the west as well as the east, of the king as well as the shepherd, of the star gazer as well as the book reader. It is always surprising who Jesus calls to himself. Genetics do not tell the whole story, nor does family upbringing. At Christmas there are Magi too. Perhaps that is you, or someone you know. Perhaps you feel like you are about as much a part of things, have about as much a sense of belonging, as Magi at the original Christmas in Bethlehem. This King can be your King too. He is not just for those who are already “in the club.” You may not understand everything yet, but if you come to worship the Christ, then at Christmas you have come to the right person and the right place.
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to thy Perfect Light
“We Three Kings” by John Henry Hopkins, 1857]]>
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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