“The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:9-11).
The word Epiphany means “manifestation,” when God came to us in human form. Epiphany has been linked with these men from the east since the fourth century. Whether there were three or three hundred we don’t know. However, we do know they were the first Gentiles to recognize Jesus as the Son of God.
Magi were astrologers and sorcerers – not the sort of person you would expect to find worshiping Jesus. God had spoken against these practices hundreds of years earlier as idol worship. So how did these guys get into the Christmas story?
A lot is revealed about the Magi in the twelve verses in which Matthew tells their story. We learn:
- They were truth seekers
- That God rewarded their efforts
- They left the comforts of home and family in order to find Jesus
- When they saw Him, they worshiped
These guys impress me with their tenacity. We don’t know how long they searched the sky before they found the Christ star. And they traveled for months before arriving in Bethlehem. No wonder they were so happy when they finally saw Jesus!
In faith, they came prepared with presents - to honor His position as King and to show their desire to be at peace with Him. Gold was appropriate for royalty and the incense and myrrh symbolic of Jesus’ mission as a priest and sacrifice.
Once they saw Jesus, the Magi were probably anxious to get back to their families. Imagine how excited they were to tell everything that had happened! As the first Gentile missionaries, they took the Good News about Jesus to the east: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, emphasis mine).
The Magi leave us an example to follow at Christmas. My family has a tradition of giving a present to Jesus on Christmas Eve. Each of us writes what we will give Jesus in the coming year on a 3x5 card and we put it on the tree. Then on Christmas morning, we share with each other what we have written. Last year, I rededicated my mouth to Jesus, to use for His glory. This year, I am claiming Him as my ultimate security – not my husband, or money, success, or the approval of others.
What will you bring to the Gift of Christmas?