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A king for all nations

December 30, 2023

Daily Scripture

Matthew 2:7-12

7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Did You Know?
Matthew never said there were “three” magi. That tradition didn’t begin until about 600 years later, based on the three gifts presented to Jesus. Jerusalem was a crossroads city, used to foreign visitors. The magi may have had quite a large entourage with them to cause a stir in the city and attract Herod’s attention.

Herod’s amoral paranoia had led him to kill even three of his sons, as well as a wife and her mother, to defend his hold on the throne. * He hid his vicious intentions for the threat he perceived from a new king (cf. Matthew 2:16) behind courteous, even religious-sounding, words. But the magi were honest seekers, and when they saw the star that had led them on their journey, they “were filled with joy.” Matthew said the magi “entered the house,” not the stable, another hint from the text that some time had passed since Jesus’ birth in an animal shelter. And, warned in a dream, they did not reveal the child’s whereabouts to Herod.

  • We’re used to this story, so we may miss the unexpected note. Matthew said the wealthy visitors who’d been at Herod’s court “saw the child with Mary his mother [a young, poor peasant]. Falling to their knees, they honored him.” Matthew didn’t explain—what do you think might have led these foreign priests to see this infant as a king worthy of their honor? Do outward signs or inward qualities impress you most? What about Jesus most creates a sense of worshipful joy in you? Bethlehem was only five miles south of Jerusalem. Fearful king Herod would have kept a close eye on the main travel routes. It probably took real effort and planning for the magi to find “another route” Herod wasn’t watching. When have you needed to switch to a physical or emotional “road less traveled” to be true to your values and God’s direction in your life, even if it meant facing some level of hardship?

Lord Jesus, the magi honored you with their gifts and when they followed the divine warning in a dream to avoid Herod’s trap. Help me to honor you by acts of worship, and by avoiding choices you warn me are foolish. Amen.

GPS Insights

Mindi McKenna

Mindi McKenna

Mindi McKenna has been a member of Resurrection for nearly 25 years. She enjoys teaching Disciple 1 and Meet Your Bible classes; volunteering with our refugee and prison ministries, and participating in a women’s small group and in the Faith and Fellowship Sunday School class. Mindi is passionate about inspiring and equipping people to share God’s love with others.

Do you know much about your ancestors? I just know a few tidbits about mine. One was orphaned at age 14. Another had 12 children. Some were attorneys, policemen, farmers, or engineers. Some fought in the American Revolution; including one who was captured by Indians, sold to British loyalists and held captive for two years as a Prisoner of War. But except for a few tidbits like those, very little is known about most of my ancestors. I’d like to know more about their lives. And that makes me wonder–what, if anything, might someone in the distant future ever know about my life?

That’s what caught my attention in the Bible verses about magi who came to worship baby Jesus. We don’t know much about them. Matthew 2:1-2 indicates they came from the east to honor the newborn king of the Jews whose star they had seen. Matthew 2:10-11 indicates that when they saw His star they were filled with joy, and when they saw young Jesus with His mother they fell to their knees and honored Him with precious gifts. Matthew 2:12 indicates that they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they went back to their country by another route.

To summarize: We don’t know for sure where the magi were from–probably somewhere in what’s now Iran, or perhaps Iraq or Saudi Arabia. We don’t know for sure whether they were magicians, astrologers, scholars–perhaps some combination of all three. We don’t know for sure whether they were Zoroastrian priests–only that they were almost certainly not Jewish.

Much about the magi is not known with certainty. Which makes what we do know even more significant. We know that they followed God’s guidance–whether it came to them by a star or a dream. We know that they made it a priority to honor young Jesus–they invested considerable time and expense to travel to the foreign country where He had been born. We know that they brought precious gifts to Jesus–the child of a peasant woman from a foreign religion. And we know that they were filled with joy. The Bible doesn’t specify details of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, or occupation; but it sure does emphasize that they made it a priority to honor Jesus, and that they did so with joy.

Ok, turning back to the notion of ancestors and legacies, let’s consider which 1-2 details of our lives we would most like future generations to know. Would you want to be remembered for your occupation? Where you’re from? Who you loved? Something you achieved?

I want a legacy like that of the magi. In some distant future when most details of my life are long forgotten, if anything is known about me I hope it will be this: that I made it a priority to honor Jesus, and that I did so with joy!

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew—Volume 1 Chapters 1–10 (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 36.