December the 24th finds us in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 2, verses 1-23:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd My people Israel.’ “
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child. As soon as you find Him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose 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, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
We don't know much about the Magi from the east. When the Bible says “from the east” it means from Babylon, and their knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures could be traced back to the time of Daniel. We don't know how many there were. Tradition says three, but that most probably comes from the number of gifts they brought. We don't know much about the star either. One Bible commentary says "This could not have been a supernova or a conjunction of planets, as some modern theories suggest, because of the way the star moved and settled over one place. It is more likely a supernatural reality similar to the Shekinah that guided the Israelites in the days of Moses."
I looked up "Shekinah" online and I found a definition in the Jewish Encyclopedia. It says the Shekinah is "a distinct entity, and a light created to be an intermediary between God and the world." I don't know, I'm not an astronomer. I only know this; there was something that the Magi followed. I wish I understood it more. I still believe it happened, no matter what the skeptics say. I believe there was a star, or Shekinah, or something that the Magi followed. We don't, we can't understand everything now. I believe the Word of God. That's all I need to know.
The Magi visited Jerusalem, and King Herod. Herod was a jealous ruler. He'd already had two brothers, one wife and two sons murdered because he suspected them of planning his over through. Herod secretly met with the Magi and found out from them when the star had first appeared. This information will be important to him in a short while because Herod would soon have all baby boys in Bethlehem, 2 years old and younger, murdered. In the mean time, he sent the Magi on their way to Bethlehem and told them when they find the baby, come back and tell him so that he too can go and worship Him. I don't understand one thing, although this is not really a misunderstanding as much as it is just a sad fact. When Herod asked the chief priests and the teachers of the Law where the Messiah was to be born, they knew exactly where, but they lacked the faith to follow the Magi to Bethlehem, only 6 miles away, and see the Messiah for themselves. Surely, from only 6 miles away they must have been able to see the star. Why didn't they go to Bethlehem and see their Messiah for themselves?
The Magi didn't come to visit Jesus the night of His birth in the stable or the cave. They came to Jesus sometime after He was born, up to 2 years after (because of the ages of the boys that Herod had murdered). I still put the camels and the wise men in the nativity scene under the Christmas tree, because that's the traditional way but, it's probably not correct. They visited Jesus when He, Joseph, and Mary were living in a house. They brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; gifts suitable for a king. Then, they were warned in a dream about Herod, and they went back to their own country by a different route.
The ornament that goes above the tree tonight is a star, and under the tree, a camel and three Magi carrying gifts.