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 in the east and have come to worship him.’”
Almost every Christmas card with the manger scene on the front includes a particularly bright star hovering directly over the stable. Whether or not it was actually hovering over the stable that first Christmas night is more than this text says. We do know it appeared in the sky in such a way as to lead the Magi to Judea, and as far as the city of Jerusalem, in search of a new king.
Many people have tried to explain what this wonderful star was. Some suggest a comet. Others point to a conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. Still others have pointed to a super nova recorded by Chinese astronomers around 5 or 6 B.C. None of these naturalistic explanations seem to fit Matthew’s later description, in which the star leads the Magi from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and then comes to a stop directly over the house in which Jesus’ family was living. For the moment it is best to set aside our cold, analytic investigation of the miracle. Let’s simply get lost in the wonder of what God was doing.
For that is what the star communicates to us today. As much as it served as a navigational tool to these men from the east, it preaches to us a sermon about the wonder of this child born in Bethlehem. I know of no other person in history whose birth was marked by such a unique, miraculous sign. It more than suggests; it screams that here we have no ordinary person. Here is someone whose greatness far excels that of any other human being. Here we find hints of his divinity. This child is so wonderful that there are things about him, and always will be, that surpass our ability to figure out. When we have given up trying to figure out everything about him, perhaps then we will be moved to bow down and worship him.
Doesn’t the presence of the Magi preach a similar message? Again, there is a sense of mystery that surrounds these visitors from the east. Who were they? Royal advisors and astronomers from Persia or Babylon? Members of the royal family of Yemen in Arabia, which is said to have practiced the Jewish faith at this time? And how did they know to look for a King of the Jews when this star appeared? Did they deduce this from Balaam’s prophecy about the star out of Jacob in Numbers 24? Had this been handed down to them from Daniel and the time of the Babylonian captivity? Did they receive some direct revelation from God? We have more questions than answers about the Magi and what prompted their visit.
But through these men, God helps us see that this is a child of wonder. No purely logical explanation accounts for this seemingly ordinary child’s ability to move non-Jews from far way to make a journey to come and find him, a journey which may have lasted years. Something wonderful about the child draws them.
That wonder, that miracle, repeats itself today. The gospel of God’s grace and forgiveness moves people around the globe to turn from the vices and the idols they so love to embrace this Jesus. His story, from manger to cross to empty tomb, keeps working the wonder of faith. While we have never seen the wonderful star or met the mysterious Magi, we do know the wonderful power of this child to draw hearts to himself. By faith he has captured our own.