It’s Christmas Eve! I’m cooking ham and listening to Oh Holy Night on repeat.
And I’m thinking about that night in Bethlehem when my Saviour was born. Oh holy night indeed!
Who witnessed the birth of my Saviour?
If I were there, would I know there was something special about this child?
Probably not. He would have been an average child. Nothing special to the eye, but to the spirit this child was life abundantly!
So who recognised that this child was the Immanuel?
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’
– Luke 2:15
Poor Jewish shepherds. They heard the herald angel proclaiming the birth of the Messiah, and they trusted (Luke 2:13-4).
Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Magi came from the East to Jerusalem saying ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’
And the Magi.
Now, these are very interesting people, the Magi. They were the priesthood of Zoroastrianism, they worshiped Ahuramazda – a pagan god. Yet they recognised the infant King of kings.
The Magi were hated by the Jews, and feared by the Greeks. They were the lowest of gentiles.
The Magi were obsessed with bringing the dead to life. Many believed they had mastered the art of resurrection, though there is no proof of any having been brought to life by their magic.
The Magi were expert astronomers. They new the stars and the constellations better than any other civilisation at the time. Which is why they noticed that something was amiss in evening sky at the time of Jesus’ birth.
Why did they follow the star? What did they expect to find? They knew a Jewish king had been born, but what significance did that have to them?
The Magi searched for the secret of resurrection. Perhaps that is what allured them to follow the star.
Whatever their reason, the fact is, they followed the star and found the infant Messiah.
Jesus first appeared to poor shepherds and a group of pagans! The lowest of the low, detested and forgotten. That’s who saw the mighty King of kings first?
I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago. “Emma, who did Jesus come for?” she asked me.
“The lost.” I answered.
“Yes. The lost. Which includes the Pharisees. None are more lost than those who believe they are found.”
She let that hang there. Jesus came, and died for the shepherds, for the Magi, for the adulterers, for the murderers, for the mentally unwell. And, the Pharisees.
I would more readily accept that Jesus died for Hitler than the metaphoric Pharisees in my life!
Even though they did not recognise that He was the Messiah, Jesus died for the Pharisees. Jesus died for those who recognised Him and those who did not, Jew and gentile, rich and poor.
This Christmas, let us not forget that Jesus was born to die – for us all.