Joy to the World


"Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.' King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, 'Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?' 'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they said, 'for this is what the prophet wrote: "And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel."' Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, 'Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!' After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod." - Matthew 2:1-12

Advent and Christmas is a strange time. We meet some very unlikely characters, who have done some very unlikely things. We've met angels, many, many angels, who have brought visions to men and women alike. We've traveled short distances to neighboring communities as well as long distances to obscure and far-off lands from the East. We've seen a virgin give birth in a barn/garage, with a bunch of animals looking on. We've had some local shepherds come by, as dirty and smelly as they were to worship the baby. And now some total strangers are coming to see what is going on.

These wise men or Magi were top officials from some nations out east where they watch the heavens for wondrous things which are about to happen. It’s not every day that folks in such a splendid wardrobe come to Bethlehem, and when they do they seek the fanciest places to hang out in, don’t they? So what brings them to a barn? And what is their interest in baby Jesus? Do they want to hurt him? Steal him? Report to Herod about him?

But nothing of the sort. They are here to honor and glorify him. They are here to gaze upon this most precious Gift, sent from above, told of in the stars, and foretold in the prophecies of scripture. And not only do they come to honor him, but they also bring him gifts. They bring to the most precious Gift given to man, gifts of their own. One brings a container full of precious incense! And he's giving it to a baby! Another is pulling out of his traveling case... gold! They're giving the King of Kings the royal treatment -- quite literally -- the gifts they give to new kings and heirs to the throne!

Epiphany means the 'showing forth' of Jesus for what He really is -- the One who is the true and rightful ruler over us. But unlike earthly kings who surround themselves with guards and armies, He chose to leave Himself at our mercy, where we could do Him harm, even kill Him. Even from the very start, as a baby, the risk was there, and it would eventually come through -- that's what lies behind the third gift, of burial-spices -- Jesus’ task was not one that could be done from strength and safety, but only from exposure to danger and death.

He came to bring once again, Joy to the World!

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
And heaven and nature sing. And heaven,
and heaven and nature sing."
– Isaac Watts

Father, let us live by the Light You shone through Your Son, that we, like the Magi of old, can show Him to all for what He really is, our Savior and King! Amen.
Jan 2 2018