This morning, I read Matthew 2:7-12. I can’t help but be struck by the irony of these pagan priests from a foreign country kneeling in worship of the Messiah, while Herod and “all Jerusalem” find His arrival troubling. A Hollywood screenwriter could not have penned a more fitting introduction to the life of Christ.
The fact that Herod was threatened by Christ’s birth shows just how convinced the authorities in Jerusalem were of the extraordinary nature of the events in Bethlehem. Of course, Herod had no intention of worshipping Jesus, as we’ll see later. His plan was murder. The Old Testament mocks and forbids astrology. (Isaiah 47:13-15, Daniel 1:20, Daniel 2:27, Daniel 4:7, Daniel 5:7, Jeremiah 10:1-2) But don’t miss the irony that these wise men, most likely pagan priests from Babylonia (Iraq) or Persia (Iran), traveled a long distance to find Jesus and worship him. Meanwhile, we know from Matthew 2:3 that “all of Jerusalem” was very troubled and upset about this arrival – even to the point that some leaders were already plotting His death.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)
Jesus came to give the right to become children of God to all who would receive him, all who would trust in his name. And often, as in this story, those who believe in his name are not the ones that you would naturally expect. Christians are not born Christians, they are not Christians because their family is Christian (“not of blood”), they are not Christians because they clean themselves up and live a certain way that pleases God (“nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man” – this is religion), but because God mysteriously and miraculously calls them and draws them to himself (“but of God”). God alone saves. We are not able to save ourselves.
I pray that this Christmas will be especially meaningful to you and that God will draw you to himself – not by blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
For additional insights from this passage, check out this post from Anne Lincoln Holibaugh of The Village Church.