ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.25
25. A Call to Worship
Matt 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 in the east and have come to worship him.”
To maintain our chronological flow of this story, we move now from Luke to Matthew’s account of what happened. In meditations 13 to 15 we saw what had happened to Joseph as recorded at the end of Matthew, chapter 1. Now the child has been born and it is probable that at least a couple of months have passed since then. The family are still living in Bethlehem in Judea which is about 5 miles south of Jerusalem. No reasons are given why they were still there, but when later, they flee to Egypt to fulfil prophecy, it is understandable why they stayed in the south of the country rather than returning up north.
While they are still in Bethlehem, some Magi, or wise astronomers from the East, came to Jerusalem seeking one who has been born (so they arrive after) who is king of the Jews. We’re not told how they got their revelation, beyond the fact that they followed a star (a meteorite perhaps?) which seemed to lead them to Israel. Jerusalem was the capital and so they assumed this is where the new king was born.
Now it’s at this point we have to point out how we so often take for granted things we’ve heard many times before. If you have been to carol services or listened to them on the radio, or watched them on TV, or even attended Nativity plays at your child’s school, you will no doubt have heard many times, We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him, and have come to take those words for granted. Yet they say something quite incredible. You don’t normally worship kings. Yes, you may honour them and kneel before them acknowledging their majesty, but you don’t worship them.
To worship means to bow down in adoration, acknowledging divine greatness – and that’s what these men say they have come to do! The ‘East’ probably means Mesopotamia, an area where civilisation had existed for millennia, and from where Abraham had originally come, an area known for its wise seers, mystics who looked beyond the material world. These men have probably travelled a long way because something in their thinking, their seeking, their mysticism, tells them that one is about to be born who is worthy of their adoration and worship.
In all the accounts so far, we’ve seen a gradual increase in revelation about this child. The angels, who came to Mary and Joseph, indicated something of his special role, and Simeon added to that. Now we find some non-Jews arriving on the scene, sent by how we do not know, and declaring that the child is a king but more than that, one worthy of worship.
I wonder if at the carol services I referred to above, you have ever heard the Isaiah prophecy referring to this coming child: “ For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6). Again, look at these words with new eyes: the child will be called Mighty God, Everlasting Father! This child is far more than an earthly king. This baby is God in disguise! No wonder these men say they’ve come to worship him. Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Simeon have all caught something of the wonder of this baby, but it takes some strange men from a far country to make it clear. This is like a sign post going up now: “This baby is God. Bow down in worship!” If you responded to the call yesterday, this is your next significant point of call, to worship the One who has come, because he is God in disguise. It takes wise men to see this truth, because ordinary people just see a baby. Are you wise today?