One of the most loved Christmas stories is that of the wisemen from the East looking for the newly born king of the Jews in the Jerusalem vicinity. To set the record straight, these wisemen did not come on the night when Jesus was born. Neither was it a few days later while baby Jesus was still lying in a manger in a stable. The visit probably took place a few months to a year after His birth. It is often said that there are three wisemen, but the fact is we do not know because it is not mentioned in the bible.
This is a fascinating story. The wisemen followed a star that led them all the way from their homeland in the distant East. There are many debates concerning the nature of that star. It could not have been an ordinary star in the night sky since it led them “until it came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9). Whatever that star was, God must have sent it to guide the wisemen to the infant Jesus.
The wisemen are not Jews. We are not sure how much they knew about the Old Testament prophecies concerning the birth of the Saviour-King. But what is clear is they knew enough to take the long journey and brought along with them expensive gifts. They were seekers of God and God was please to reveal His Son to them. God will reveal Himself to whoever that seeks Him. A true seeker will always find God.
It is interesting to note that the Jewish religious leaders and scribes had no clue regarding the birth of their Messiah. These people were well acquainted with the Holy Scripture. Yet none of them had any idea that their King was already in their midst. God had sent an angel to break the good news to the lowly shepherds and a star to inform a few foreigners, but He said nothing to them. What an irony! Perhaps they were not sincerely seeking God.
The wisemen were very clear about their purpose for visiting the infant Saviour-King. “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). They came to worship Him!
Imagine their surprise where the star led them. It did not stop over the city of Jerusalem as they had expected. Neither did it stop over a palace or a palatial mansion. The star led them to a small house in a poor neighbourhood in Bethlehem. This is certainly not what they had expected.
Nevertheless, they were overjoyed. Two things happened when they saw baby Jesus with His mother. They fell down and worshipped Him. It must be quite an experience for Mary and Joseph to see these wisemen prostrating and worshipping their son. It further affirmed all that God, through the angels, had told them about the identity of Jesus.
In the past, it was a customary practice to pay homage to a king by the act of kneeling. It showed one’s respect and honour. But there is another reason which most of us, modern folks, are unaware. Kneeling and prostrating were also demonstrations of allegiance. Essentially, these Gentile wisemen were pledging their loyalty and devotion to King Jesus. Never mind He was still an infant. He was destined to be the King of kings and Lord of lords in the future. Now that they had found Him, they would never again worship other gods. Their allegiance would be with Christ Jesus alone.
The wisemen did not come empty-handed. They offered gold, frankincense and myrrh as their worship. These are expensive gifts fit for a king. It reminds me of King David who uttered these memorable words - “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing” (Samuel 24:24). Worship is costly.
Do not be mistaken. Worship is not just singing praise and worship songs during Sunday services. It is more than that. The word, worship, is derived from the old English word, “weorthscipe.” It means worthiness. Because God is worthy, I will honour and revere Him. I will obey Him and be devoted to Him. I will live my life in total surrender to Him. I will lay everything at His feet. Everything that I have belongs to Him. This is worship and it is costly.
Abraham understood that worship was costly. That is why he was willing to lay down his son, Isaac, on the altar of sacrifice. He would allow nothing – not even his dearest son - to come between him and God.
During this season of Advent, let us reflect seriously on our relationship with God. How are we doing in terms of our allegiance and worship? Would God consider us loyal and devoted? Is God pleased with our worship?
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua