Monday 06 January 2020

Bible Book:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem ... (v. 1)

Matthew 2:1-12 Monday 6 January 2020

Psalm: Psalm 72


The nativity scenes in many of our churches at this season include images of three people who stand out in the crowd. It still appears to be the stable, there are shepherds and animals as well as the Holy Family, but there – either on the periphery or kneeling in worship at the manger – are usually three men. Sometimes they are wearing crowns like kings, but there they are in the dirt and grime of the place of birth. However, it is unlikely that it was to the stable that these “wise men” as the text speaks of them, met with the family, but rather in the place to which they moved to recover from the birth.

Matthew's Gospel tells us that it is after the birth that wise men from the East come to Jerusalem. It does not say how many there were and I suspect it was quite a crowd if you take into account servants as well. They come, initially, to the place where one would expect to find the king of the Jews – a palace in Jerusalem – and we can imagine Herod’s reaction to what they say when they ask to see the king they have been seeking. We might have many questions about these visitors and how they get the news that something special had happened so far from their homes. Who indeed were they? Those who have written carols over the years describe them as kings, others as Magi leaders within the Zoroastrian religion, others astrologers – the latter two suggestions being most likely to be the people involved. Whoever they were, and however they heard the news of this new birth, whether by word of mouth from travellers or by consulting the stars as tradition would have it. they arrive at the palace, they meet Herod and they are, after the scholars have read the prophecy, sent off to Bethlehem to where the usurper to Herod’s reign might be found. The visitors go and pay tribute and then, having somehow realised that this is no ordinary birth, no ordinary king, do not do as they had been told by Herod, they leave Bethlehem and return home no doubt wrestling with the encounter of which they had been part.


To Ponder:

  • In all of the excitement of the stable and the joy of Christmas celebrations do we sometimes forget that date 12 days later when this visitation occurs?
  • Should we consider the people to whom the infant Jesus is displayed more than we do; people (particularly in the case of the shepherds) not unlike ourselves?
  • Why do we sometimes regard Epiphany as the end of the story, when it is only just beginning the journey of the child born to be a king?
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