God in a Manger
The glory of Christmas is the glorious response of those who witnessed Christ's birth. They offered Him pure and glorious worship!
What does Matthew 2 record as the first reaction to the birth of Christ? Worship. Shortly after the birth of the Messiah, Babylonian magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem and inquired of king Herod where the real king of the Jews was to be born.
The immediate reaction of the theologians of Herod's court who knew the Scriptures well-was "in Bethlehem." What is amazing is that as they recited these words they showed the terrible condition that though they knew the Scriptures, they did not believe them! What a sad indictment upon these Bible students that they did not even bother to travel the five or six miles to Bethlehem to see their Messiah.
But one person in the crowded court believed the Scriptures! Herod believed the Scriptures! That is why he dispatched a corps of butchers to Bethlehem to slaughter innocent children, in hopes of destroying this rival to his throne. But he was too late. The magi had come and gone and Jesus was by now safe in Egypt.
Another group also believed, those Magi believed the Scriptures. They had traveled several hundred miles to worship this Babe. They were guided to Bethlehem by a supernatural celestial phenomenon--and by the Scriptures. Apparently, their ancestors had been instructed by Daniel the prophet about the coming Messiah. . . When they saw the Child, they fell down and worshiped him. This was God in the flesh. They could do no other.
And they gave him gifts--gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This was an unusual present--by any standards. The gold, of course, we all can understand--but the frankincense and myrrh were odd. Perhaps this means these wise men had been exposed to Isaiah's prophecy which foretold that "nations will come to your light, and kings to your rising. . . They will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news. . . " (Isa. 60:3,6) . This exposure and their response explain the frankincense, but not the myrrh.
To the ancients myrrh, like frankincense, was a perfume. But unlike frankincense, myrrh always seemed to have the smell of death. In the ancient world, it was used to embalm a corpse. Jesus himself would be embalmed with this very perfume (John 19:39.)
How could the Magi be thinking of Jesus' death when they brought the myrrh? The only way was if they knew of it from Daniel's prophecy (9:24-27). In the ninth chapter of Daniel we read that the 'Messiah will be cut off' and this 'will make atonement for iniquity' and ultimately 'bring in everlasting righteousness' (9:26, 24).
Even at the birth of our Savior, the shadow of the cross is already falling over his face. . .
Look at Mt. 2 and the Magi they:
- v. 1 Came from far away
- v. 2 Had single minded devotion
- v. 3-8 Aren't daunted by false seekers
- v. 9 Keep following God's leading
- v. 10 Have great anticipation
- v. 11 Purpose to see and give
The theologians of Herod's court did not believe the Scriptures. They were fools. Herod believed, but disobeyed. He was a madman. The simple shepherds and the majestic Magi believed in this infant Savior--and it was reckoned to them as righteousness. May we follow in their train?
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