Friday, December 23, 2016

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 19

“Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?’”

The Magi were not kings, as some people think.  Most likely they were astrologers, they studied the stars looking for signs.  They were probably from Persia or from the southern desert of Arabia.  And, we actually hear about them before the Christmas story in the Old Testament book of Daniel. Daniel 2:1 – 2 reads, “One night during the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had such disturbing dreams that he couldn’t sleep.  He called in his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers, and he demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed.”  Those magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, astrologers mentioned … that’s the Magi.

And, if you trace their history back far enough, you’ll find out that they descended from either two groups of people:  the Chaldeans or the Assyrians.  The only reason I mention that  is because when you read the Old Testament, you’ll find that the nation of Israel … the Jews (and Jesus was a Jew) … were always fighting with the Chaldeans or the Assyrians.  They hated each other.  These were enemies of God’s people.  And, not only were they enemies, but they didn’t even worship the God of the Bible.  They worshipped things like the earth, wind, fire, and water. 

Enemies of God’s people, worshippers of idols, and yet they were invited to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Some time after the birth of Christ, they end up in a small town called Bethlehem and that is where they find Jesus and give him the gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. 

That God would allow this to happen should come as no surprise.  To some degree or another we are all enemies of God, concerned more about building our own personal kingdom that God's.  And, to some degree or another, many of us turn to other “gods” in order to find comfort and security.  And, yet, it is clear that this is exactly who Jesus came to save.  In Mark 2:17 Jesus said,  “Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”  The Apostle Paul wrote, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them all.  But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.”  (1 Timothy 1:13 – 15)

We celebrate the birth of Jesus not as a gift to the righteous, but as a gift to the sinful and selfish and arrogant … “This includes you (and me) who were once far away from God. You (and I) were his enemies, separated from him by our evil thoughts and actions.  But now he has reconciled us by Christ's physical body through death to present us holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”  (Colossians 1:21 – 22) All are welcome to that small town called Bethlehem to see Jesus and place our hope and trust in Him.

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes. 
Come today there's no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling
(Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship)

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