“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea…
Magi came from the east to Jerusalem and asked,
‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?’”
Matthew 2:1-2 (NIV)
This particular Christmas Carol has suffered at the hands of children with great imaginations and irreverent words have substituted for the author’s. I well recall as a child finding pleasure in using the wrong words to describe the Magi and their adventures in seeking the Christ.
The Bible tells us that these men brought three gifts but it does not tell us how many of them journeyed to Jerusalem and then Bethlehem in order to worship the Christ. We are certain that more than one came as they are referred to in the plural.
The Magi are thought to be astrologers who studied the stars and that they inferred by the appearance of the Christmas star that it symbolized the birth of a Jewish king.
Because the Magi are Gentiles there seems to be a hint by Matthew that the One recently born had a connection to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Certainly they received a welcome by Mary and Joseph.
During His public ministry Jesus did seek out non-Jews for Himself, e.g. John 4 and the story of the Samaritan woman.
The question these men raised in Jerusalem indicates that they were convinced that a king had been born and that He was from the Jewish people.
Unhappily the attention of mad Herod the Great who ruled the Jews at the time was aroused. His jealousy for the throne caused him to craftily ask the Magi to let him know when they found the child’s location so he could come and worship also. Actually he intended to slay the child once it was identified.
Herod’s action after learning the Magi had left without disclosing the location and identity of the child was in keeping with his violent nature. He destroyed every child under 2 years of age in the region because that was when the star first signalled to the Magi that a Jewish king had been born.
So the Magi, intent on doing what was right, that is worship the child Jesus, caused some mourning in the area as many parents lost their little ones to the sword of Herod.
One early church father, Origen, suggested that the three gifts speak of aspects of Jesus. Gold spoke of Him as King, myrrh symbolized that Jesus was mortal, and incense spoke of Him being God. This may indeed have merit, but we do know that the gifts were expensive and demonstrated their respect for the child.
We today do well to seek for Jesus just as these men did so long ago. In fact in Jeremiah 29:13 God tells us that if we seek for Him with all our hearts we shall find Him. This Christmas time we all need to bring this promise to God in prayer and call on Him to do as He promises. For our part, we need to make the search for our Creator as diligent as the Magi. Will you find the Christ this Christmas? He calls on you to seek. His promise is that He will meet you. Come and come today.