Reader: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea,”
Response: “during the reign of King Herod.”
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
Once again we have come to the last of our daily devotionals for the Advent/Christmastide season. Starting this coming Sunday, you will receive a Sunday devotional each week until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent when the daily devotionals will resume. You do not need to re-subscribe.
Traditionally Epiphany has been marked by three most significant events in the life of Jesus, the visit of the magi, his baptism and his first public miracle of changing water to wine at the marriage feast. An epiphany is the moment “the light goes on,” the “Oh, I get it!” moment. One of the unexpected surprises for the Jews was that the Messiah would be for all peoples, all nations. Several books in the New Testament spend significant time helping the Jewish Christians grasp this truth. The first clue that things were different was the visitation of the magi, non-Jews coming to pay homage to the newborn Jewish Messiah. God made sure that message was clear from the beginning, Jesus was a Savior for all peoples.
We know Herod was a wicked king hated by the Jews. A little background can give some perspective. Herod was an Edomite, descending from Esau, Jacob’s brother. You’ll recall Esau gave his birthright to Jacob (and God’s blessing) in exchange for a bowl of soup! He married a non-Israelite to boot (forbidden by law). The Edomites were enemies of Israel. In addition, Herod collaborated with the Roman occupiers to gain power which further secured disdain for him. He never felt completely legitimate as king and was paranoid, killing two of his wives, three sons and other relatives he feared were plotting against him. When the Scripture says he was “disturbed . . . as was everyone” there was good reason! Knowing his fearful insecurity, he was jealous of the child “newborn king of the Jews.” Herod had usurped the throne for himself through treachery but this child was born as king of Israel. Notice Herod refers to Jesus as the child not the baby. There is thought that Jesus was between six and eighteen months old when the magi visited him and his parents in a house in Bethlehem. God protected his Son by warning the wisemen to go home by another route without telling Herod and then spoke to Joseph in a dream to take his family to Egypt to escape Herod’s order to kill all baby boys two years old and younger.
These are all well-known facts surrounding Jesus’ birth, so what is there here for us?
First, God protects his own, sometimes via dreams; he is not distant. Second, God’s time is always the perfect time. It is ironic that the devil used Herod to try to kill God’s Son when he was born, yet years later God’s Son voluntarily gave up his life which brought redemption. So the Son of God did die, but on God’s terms not the devil’s. The result was the salvation of the whole world was made possible. Third, God is very aware of the details in our lives. He spoke to Joseph via a dream on four different occasions.
There are no easy roads in following the Lord. It seems he is more interested in developing our character and relationship to him than he is in making sure our life is smooth. I’m afraid much of our prayer life is concerned with asking for more pleasant circumstances to make life easier. That’s not what God is working on.
Think of the stress Mary and Joseph dealt with. The king wanted to kill their son. They were the parents charged with raising the Son of God. Talk about an overwhelming responsibility! They were far from home and wouldn’t be back for a long while. They moved to a foreign land with a different language. They were strangers in an unknown land. They were traveling on foot with a small child less than two years old through a desert! They did have gold, frankincense and myrrh which may have been their finances to survive. As unsettling as all of this may have been, God provided just what they needed when they needed it. The same applies to us.
Music: “We Three Kings” Fox and Hound with Tim Foust
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face. Thou art our preserver, governor, savior, and coming judge. Quiet our souls to call upon thy name; detach us from the influence of the flesh and the senses; impress us with the power of faith; promote in us spirituality of mind that will render our services acceptable to thee, and delightful and profitable to ourselves. Bring us into that state which attracts thine eye, and prepare us to receive the proofs of thy love. Show us our danger, that we may fly to thee for refuge. Perceiving nothing in ourselves, may we find in the Savior wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
―BCP and Valley of Vision, p.218, adapted Daniel Sharp
© Daniel Sharp 2021
I want to thank you all for sharing these past forty days and for sharing these devotionals with friends. I appreciate your passing the link along. Our prayer as always is that we are drawn closer and deeper in our encounters with the Lord through his word. More than simply reading a passage, may we develop a daily pattern of hearing the voice of the Lord as we read, meditate, study, and listen. I trust the music and prayers have likewise encouraged and edified you. I’ve listed the resources below. Blessings on you all and thank you for your kind words of encouragement.
Source Books for Prayers, Music List of Songs, Names of Musical Groups, Scripture Index of Passages used are all listed by date and will come in a separate email today.
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