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The Journey of the Magi by James Tissot (c. 1894)

The Wise Men had arrived in Bethlehem. Mary, Joseph and Jesus were out of the stable and had been living in a house for about two years in Bethlehem by the time the Wise Men came. But who were these Wise Men? They were definitely from the East, probably coming from Persia (modern-day Iran), and would have traveled about 800-900 miles by the stars to get to Bethlehem. The prophet Daniel had been the chief of the court seers at an earlier time in Persia during the Jewish exile, so these men would have been familiar with Daniel’s prophecy regarding the timing of the Messiah.

They were learned men and confident of their knowledge too. They would not have traveled such a far distance on just a hunch. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they asked King Herod where the King of the Jews had been born. They already knew he had been born. And they already knew who He was.

They must have been important men too, in order to have the attention of King Herod. But Herod had not been expecting them – they came unannounced. That was  unusual for the times, but perhaps the Wise Men knew of King Herod’s reputation as a ruthless King and thought it better to not cause trouble ahead of time. King Herod was also an Edomite, who came from the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother from their father Isaac. Esau had given up his birthright and blessing to Jacob, who later became the nation of Israel. Throughout the history of the Old Testament, the Edomites had always been at conflict with Israel, and now it continued with King Herod.

The Wise Men were not Kings themselves but Magi (magicians) or astronomers. But they believed. They had studied the history of the Jews and their prophecies. Perhaps it is symbolic that Jesus was already having victory over darkness through these Magi. And King Herod and the rest of Jerusalem were not happy about it.

Matthew tells us the story of the Wise Men’s visit.

From the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.

“In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the leaders of Judah:
because out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd My people Israel.

Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.”

Of course Herod did not want to worship the child but to kill him. And also how sad it is, that all of the chief priests and scribes of Jerusalem – those who knew the law and knew about the prophecy of Bethlehem – did not even want to go to see for themselves. Had their hearts become that hardened and selfish that they did not want to see the truth?

May you open your heart to the wonderful possibilities that can come from knowing Jesus.

* Merry Christmas *

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Happy are the feet of those who bring good news! Isaiah 52:7

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